THERE'S always a silver lining. York Theatre Royal’s temporary closure forced York Opera to defer its autumn staging until this perfectly-timed double bill, Menotti’s Amahl And The Night Visitors with Vaughan Williams’s The First Nowell.

At Wednesday’s first of two sold-out evenings, it proved a happy combination from start to finish, with cast members as principals in one opera reverting to the chorus in the other, and vice versa. Menotti’s own libretto, inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s Adoration Of The Magi, deals with a disabled lad and his mother who offer hospitality to the itinerant three kings.

Shepherds arrive to enhance the welcome, and the boy’s generosity results in a miracle as he offers his crutch for the Christ-child. Now no longer lame, he is able to join the kings’ journey.

The tousled Isaac Greenhill made an ideally engaging Amahl, with ready grin and clear tone, always relaxed. He was impeccably complemented by Rebecca Smith as his mother, her frustration and bewilderment turning to joy. The richly-costumed kings were a friendly quartet (with their page) and the shepherds let their hair down in lively choreography by Johanna Hartley.

Simona Pakenham’s libretto for the Vaughan Williams is adapted from several mystery plays, allowing for some richly pleasing dialect from Keith Rowan’s Joseph and the three shepherds. Outstanding here were the serene Mary of Ellie McCarthy and the graceful Gabriel of Olivia Hildreth, both enunciating with model clarity alongside Clive Goodhead’s avuncular Creator. These kings were earthier, though equally well dressed.

The versatile, costumed chorus, stage right, ranged from a John Taverner Gloria through a variety of folk tunes and traditional carols accompanied, as in the Menotti, by James Sanderson’s ever-alert piano and Emma Tatnall’s lithe flute. Derek Chivers’s baton held them all together admirably.