The nice woman working security at the Lowry approaches me with her metal-detecting device.
“Do you have a pacemaker,” she asks.
“I don’t think so.”
This is not to be found on anyone’s list of Sensible Answers. What was I thinking? That some rogue surgeon had crept up on me during my afternoon nap, popped the gadget in just for devilment, then slipped away again, unnoticed? I plead a certain discombobulation. It is strange to be back in a theatre. A good strange, to be sure, but unsettling.
We take our seats almost thirty minutes before the concert is scheduled to start. Peculiar, but necessary. If we try to act like ‘This’ is all over, when it clearly isn’t, we shall find ourselves taking more backward steps than forward ones.
There is no interval, therefore no ‘comfort break.’ Again, this is a wise precaution, but worth bearing in mind when you go to see Opera North’s “Night at the Opera.” And, please do go. It’s rather wonderful.
Try visualising a group hug with 50-odd musicians, a conductor and three vocalists, and you’ll have the gist of it.
Following the overture to Verdi’s Nabucco, conductor Paul Daniel introduces us to the twin themes for this curation – love and travel; each holding poignant currency for all present.
Soprano, Elin Pritchard begins with “Qui la voce..” from Bellini’s I Puritani. A lovely beginning. Her ovation is warm but less warm than she deserves. Her conductor mouths a quiet, “Brava!” in her direction. It’s a lovely moment. Such are the unexpected treasures of sitting in a half-empty, socially-distanced auditorium.
Benson Wilson’s tender baritone relishes, “O Du, Mein Holder Abendstern,” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser. Wilson has the looks, the build and the voice. With guidance from a skilled director, I expect, one day, he’ll make a memorable Scarpia.
The third of the evening’s singers is Maltese tenor, Nico Darmarin. It’s the first time I’ve heard him sing, and it really must not be the last. The range and colour, light and shade of his voice show such mastery of technique. Short of stepping into one of the world’s great opera houses, I expect the rendition of “Una Furtiva Lagrima,” (Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore) he gave tonight to remain unmatched. Bravissimo!
Daniel’s programme is expertly judged; familiar favourites (including Pritchard with a beautiful, vulnerable yet optimistic, “Mi Chiamo Mimi,” and the two men enjoying themselves with Bizet’s duet from The Pearl Fishers) alternate with rarer treats. Benson Wilson movingly delivers an aria from Eric Korngold’s post-World War One opera, Die Tote Stadt.
Daniel also, and rightly, invites acknowledgement of Opera North’s fine orchestra. We are, of course, delighted to oblige.
We step out into a beautiful summer’s evening. Life, as I recall, does get better than this – but not often.