A BROAD thematic programme can be risky. Nevertheless, York Opera pulled this evening off, in spite of last-minute replacements of both singers and accompanists.

The group boasts some seriously talented singers, and this was evident from the outset. Sharon Nicholson-Skeggs gave an electrifying performance of Sola Perduta Abbandonata from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, and Heather Watts’s Caro Nome from Verdi's Rigoletto was assured, stylish, and impressive.

As well as making his directorial debut with the group, Ian Thomson-Smith joined singers in a spirited rendition of Mozart’s "Hmm, hmm, hmm" quintet. In the end, however, there were far too many notable soloists to mention each by name here.

The chorus were energetic and switched on throughout. They made a positive, full-bodied sound and were consistently engaged with their conductor and the audience. Better yet, their visible enjoyment was contagious.

There was much to enjoy in the second half, but Hamish Brown and Clive Goodhead’s high-octane duet from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers was a definite highlight.

What held this evening together, and what made it so enjoyable and rewarding, was not only the talent, but the passion, energy, and excitement.This group love what they do, and it is hard not to love watching them.

York Opera will repeat this concert at 7.30pm on Thursday at York Guildhall; their next production will be Menotti’s Amahl And The Night Visitors and Vaughan Williams’s The First Nowell on December 16 at the National Centre for Early Music.

Review by Claire McGinn