What a wonderful, enjoyable evening we had at Opera Viva’s “Pasta and Paccini” Concert. The whole evening was a tribute to one of opera’s most popular Italian composes known and loved throughout the world for his melodies and dramatic plots, namely Giacomo Puccini (22 December 1858 – 29 November 1924),it has been said he was "the greatest composer of Italian opera after Verdi", and is responsible for some of his most famous operas of all time such as Madam Butterfly, Gianni Schicchi, Turandot, Tosca and La Bohème, also included in the program were two extra choruses written by Mascagni and Leoncavallo who were Puccini’s contemporaries.

There was a very enjoyable start to the evening as the audience were treated to a lovely two course meal consisting of those Italian favourites, Lasagna and Tiramisu, which helped set the mood and the feel of the evening ready for the very enjoyable musical entertainment to follow. The concert was performed in two halves, and was compared by a very entertaining David Palmer, which was just right for the evening, he introduced proceedings and gave the audience some background about the arias and where they sat in the story of the opera they came from. 

The concert opened with “The Bell Chorus” from the opera Pagliacci by Leoncavallo, it was followed  by excerpts from Puccini’s famous opera La Bohème which filled the rest of the first part.Guest singer Tenor Ben Sweeney sung Rodolfo’s arias outstandingly and Soprano Kerry Firth was spellbinding singing Mimi, both singers performed their solo’s and  duets beautifully, they were a pleasure to listen to. There were other enjoyable performances in this first part from David Palmer as Marcello who sang the duet with Ben Sweeney “Mimi,tu plus non torne”, and Steve Riordan, who sang “Vecchia zimarra”(Faithful companion).The chorus performed the Act 2 scene “At the Café Momus” where Rodolfo meets with and introduces Mimi to his artist friends, and here members of the company were featured in the roles of Rodolfo and his friends, they were Peter Bates- Rodolfo, Kerry Firth -Mimi, Peter McColgan- Marcello, Freddie Ligertwood- Schaunard, Steve Riordan- Colline, Martin Cassell- Alcindoro, with Marie Williams as Musetta singing Musetta’s Waltz or “Quando m’en vo”.

Part two  of the concert included well known popular arias from  some of Puccini’s most best loved operas. From Tosca we had three famous pieces, “Te Deum” with soloist David Palmer, which was followed by one of my favourite arias“Vissi diArte” sung by Pam Ashcroft, with “E lucevan le Stelle”sung by Eric Cymbir. Then from Madam Butterfly, we heard Annette Reis Dunne  sing “Un bel di”(One fine day) and the challenging “Humming Chorus” sung by the full Company.Mark Duffy performed “Questo amor,vergogna mia” (This love, my shame) from Edgar, then we had the beautiful and  very popular “O mio babbino caro” (O, my beloved father) sung by Suzan Ozkan from Gianni Schicchi, followed by two famous arias from the opera Turandot, “Signore ascolte”sung by Kerry Firth, we were then treated to arguable the best known aria in the world of opera namely “Nessun dorma” sung on this occasion by Ben Sweeney. The evening was finished off with the beautiful, spine tingling piece,”The Easter Hymn” from Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni. 

Artistic Director  for the evening was Viv Sharp, and the concert was conducted by the very talented Isobel Jenkins in her last performance as Musical Director for the company, all the singers were accompanied expertly by the superb Robert Chesters on piano. Just to be constructive I did feel the chorus were somewhat unsure on occasions and appeared rather tentative at times, which could be seen on their faces as they were very close to the audience, however, this was still a very entertaining lovely evening with some wonderful singing, which was enjoyed very much by the very appreciative audience. Thank you very much for inviting us we had a very enjoyable time as usual.