Veteran BBC broadcaster Noel Thompson took to the stage in the Grand Opera House on Sunday evening to sing in one of the world’s most famous operas.
Mr Thompson, who was performing in Verdi’s Rigoletto as part of a chorus of singers, said it was an honour to be on stage with some of opera’s biggest names.
Rigoletto had its gala opening night in the Grand Opera House on Sunday and will run for three more shows in the Belfast venue on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 7.30pm.
The opera sees multi-award-winning Verdi baritone Sebastian Catana make his UK debut alongside Nadine Koutcher, winner of the 2015 Cardiff Singer of the World, and Davide Giusti, a winner at Placido Domingo’s Operalia World Opera Competition in 2017.
Good Morning Ulster presenter Mr Thompson told the News Letter: “It was a huge privilege to be up close and personal with such huge names in world opera.
“From a personal point of view I was trying my best to hit the right notes and not make any mistakes like bumping into the set or one of the stars.
“The opening night went very well but you can never get complacent. Opera is a high-pressure environment, especially for the stars who have to hit some incredible notes.”
The 62-year-old, who sings with Belfast Philharmonic Choir and has been involved in previous shows with Castleward Opera and NI Opera, said: “As an amateur singer with neither the desire nor the ability to be any more than part of a chorus, being part of an opera like Rigoletto is just wonderful.
“There’s a real bond between the members of the chorus which transcends the generations.”
Rigoletto has been brought to Belfast by NI Opera, in co-operation with the Ópera Nacional de Chile.
Composed by Giuseppe Verdi and sung in the original Italian, it showcases opera’s greatest hits La Donna e Mobile and Caro Nome.
For the benefit of non-Italian speakers there are subtitles provided on monitors on either side of the stage, though it is possible to follow the story without translation given the rousing operatics and dynamism of the actors under the direction of NI Opera’s Walter Sutcliffe.
The set designed by Kaspar Glarner – the largest and most complex in Ireland and the biggest ever to be featured within the Grand Opera House – was also deserving of the ovation given to the cast at the end of Sunday’s gala performance in aid of Inspire and NI Hospice.
While very much an international spectacle, local talent features heavily in the shape of the Ulster Orchestra conducted by Gareth Hancock and the chorus of NI Opera.