Prepare for penalty arias as SAFC opera takes over Sunderland Minster

Miracle An Opera of Two Halves being performed at Sunderland Minster
Miracle An Opera of Two Halves being performed at Sunderland Minster
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Sunderland’s passion for the beautiful game will ring out at a city centre church this weekend.

After months of workshops and rehearsals, Mackem opera Miracle! will be brought to life by a cast of professional and community singers at Sunderland Minster.

Jonathon Cooke

Jonathon Cooke

Inspired by the highs and lows of SAFC, it will be sung in a Wearside lilt and is set at the Stadium of Light, Roker Beach and the streets of Sunderland.

One of the young singers involved in the show, which is being presented by Music in the Minster, is Courtney-Leigh Stubbs, 16, from Barnes.

The Sunderland College music and drama student said: “I’m not a football supporter, nor am I religious, but what really appealed to me about being in this show is its community spirit and how everyone is uplifted.

“I’ve sung in shows before, but what is great about this is that you can sing and speak in your Mackem accent, it makes such a difference.”

Jonathon Cooke, with Miles Horner and Fiona Tobin at tonight's Miracle! rehearsals

Jonathon Cooke, with Miles Horner and Fiona Tobin at tonight's Miracle! rehearsals

Castletown Enterprise Academy pupil Mitchell Thirlwell, 12, also joins the 42 local singers, aged 12-70, who are bringing the opera to life.

“I got involved through a workshop at school. I’ve sung before, but this is the first time I’ve done a big project like this,” he said. “Everyone stereotypes opera, but it’s basically telling a story through music, like a musical does.”

Miracle! has been penned by children’s author David Almond, famed for his Skellig novel who’s worked with composer Marcos Fernandez, Sunderland-born mezzo-soprano Alison Barton and conductor Marco Romano.

Alison said: “Though its narrative is inspired by football, what’s at the heart of this show is people. I come from Sunderland and I know that there is something very special about this corner of the world: we have an outstanding sense of fellowship and commitment. You don’t realise just how much until you go to other places.”

Members of the youth chorus

Members of the youth chorus

She added: “Though football and opera don’t seem to go together, there are actually a lot of similarities. It inspires a fanatical devotion to people who are at a world class level in their field, yet anyone can kick a ball or sing.

“After all these months of preparation, we can’t wait to perform in front of an audience.”

Director Annie Rigby said: “It’s no secret that I’m an NUFC fan, so when the email came in about directing this opera I smiled to myself. But even though I’m a fan of the other club, you can’t help but be swept up by it all. Opera and football both have big emotions, they have glory and despair in an epic experience.

“It’s been so important to work with the local community on this. People feel like it’s their story, something they are proud to sing about.”

The Miracle! orchestra

The Miracle! orchestra

•Miracle! An Opera of Two Halves is at Sunderland Minster on Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm and on Sunday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets are £10 or £8 concessions from ticketsouce.co.uk/musicintheminster, Tel. 0333 666 3366 or at the church office.

Jonathon Cooke and Caroline Kennedy

Jonathon Cooke and Caroline Kennedy

Rehearsals for this weekend's shows

Rehearsals for this weekend's shows