(Another) Night at the Opera

It’s not often that singing superstars Katherine Jenkins and Rolando Villazon are to be found a few yards in front of you belting out YMCA, complete with actions. So begins Friday evening at ITV’s London Studios for the latest instalment of Popstar to Operastar. Jenkins and Villazon are joined by fellow judges Meat Loaf and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, equally good sports as they whip the audience up before filming begins.

It’s week three and Blur’s Alex James and The Saturday’s Vanessa White have both left the show. I have the best seat in the house, right beside Rolando and Katherine, to discover who will be next. Rolando sets the bar high, performing an epic pre-record that the world will hear while they’re awaiting the results of the public vote. It must be nerve wracking enough for whichever competitor goes first, but following that would be especially daunting.

Marshy gets the gig. That’s how she’s known to fellow Hear’Sayer and co-host Mylene Klass, but to much of the nation Kym Marsh is also Michelle Connor, barmaid of Corrie’s Rover’s Return. She starts us off singing Habanera from Carmen, armed with a black Spanish fan to hide behind. The performance over, Klass’s co-star Alan Titchmarsh quizzes the judges.

“Meat” starts the ball rolling saying, “That was like sex. One minute, forty-five seconds of pure ecstasy.” The one-time scriptwriter in me is praying one of the other panelists will respond with, “That’s a long time for you, Meat,” but they’re all far too kind and the moment passes.

During the breaks, Katherine and Rolando’s stylists rush in to beautify their charges. As magic potions are sprayed onto Rolando’s ringlets, I ask if they might help regrow my own disappearing locks.

Before the show I tweeted that Jimmy Osmond would be next to go. He surprises me and the panel by turning in a decent operatic performance of Amor Ti Vieta. Afterwards, he comes up and shakes all the judges’ hands, coming across as a totally great and genuine guy.

The other performers left in are Marcella Detroit, Danny from McFly, Darius and Bernadette Nolan. I’m sitting behind Marcella’s friends and family (with the McFly boys, their girlfriends and Katherine’s mum a couple of rows in front). Everyone’s nervous because Marcella’s up next singing Queen of the Night from The Magic Flute, apparently the most difficult piece in the opera canon. As she reaches the end, pretty well note perfect, and hits the highest, most difficult to reach one of them all, Rolando beside me punches the air in triumph. If you’re quick enough to catch this week’s video on the website, you’ll see me laughing beside him (1:03 to 1:10 seconds in).

Clearly nervous after a failed rehearsal, Danny takes a while to get going, but finishes strongly. The panel are still quite damning. It’s because he’s not fulfilling his potential – there’s a clear desire for everyone to do well. Danny’s upset. Katherine’s upset that they were too hard on Danny and wonders about finding him to apologize. While this is a live show, during the VTs (videotape inserts) and the ad breaks there’s plenty of time to stretch your legs and wander around. All the while the crew on the studio floor perform magnificently – I’ve worked on some live shows and it was the best drilled group I’d seen.

Darius (hit my baby one more … time) Danesh/Campbell has had a bad week. You can tell because there are dancers on stage, a sure sign the producers want to distract from the vocals. They needn’t have worried. Opera suits the once pony-tailed would-have-been Pop Idol, and he rises to the occasion. Last comes Bernie Nolan. If you, like me, recall the original Nolan Sisters (who later underwent a radical rebrand to the Nolans), you wouldn’t have expected too much from the final act of the evening. You’d also have been very surprised. Bernie pulled it off big time – I thought it all the more impressive she had to sing some of the piece sitting down (on a chez longue Llewelyn-Bowen could easily have leant the studio for the occasion). We awaited the vote.

I love the way all these shows announce the acts going through “in no particular order”, giving strategists and psychologists hours of potential fun wondering who should be announced when for maximum impact on future shows. Sadly, I can’t even remember the order now, but we were left with Danny and Jimmy standing before the judges. My earlier prediction hit the spot and the one-time long-haired lover from Liverpool is the one to go.

Afterwards it’s back to the green room, past various interviews taking place behind the scenes. The stars change and make their way up to join us. I’m struck by the great vibe all round – everyone’s friendly and happy to talk. Katherine looks after her mum while my friend Eddie forces me to take a photo of him with Kym Marsh, who’s totally lovely and happy to oblige. Had I remembered, I could have reminded her that the first (and only other) time I saw her, was in another ITV green room when I was talking with Midge Ure. Way back then, Marshy asked Midge for his autograph, so there’s no need to be embarrassed.

A great way to spend a Friday night and very different indeed from my last night at the opera – with only three shows left, I hope I’m able to get back for another.

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~ by keithmansfield on February 2, 2010.

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