Seaham dog takes ‘lead’ role in Sunderland Empire opera

Kelly Monahan and dog Bella are to star in La Boheme
Kelly Monahan and dog Bella are to star in La Boheme
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Bella Bear has a real wag in her tail after finding out she’d won the lead role in an Empire show.

The Shih Tzu from Seaham is gearing up to tread the boards in La Boheme after producers put out a canine casting call.

Kelly Monahan and dog Bella are to star in La Boheme

Kelly Monahan and dog Bella are to star in La Boheme

They were inundated with entries, but Bella’s relaxed attitude hit the right note for the romantic opera which is being brought to the city on tour by Ellen Kent.

Bella’s owner Kelly Monahan, a teacher, said: “Bella Bear is a very relaxed pooch and likes nothing more than sleeping and people watching out of the window.”

Kelly says she always knew her dog had star quality - she bought Bella Bear from the specialist Santosha Shih Tzu kennels and Bella is said to be a distant relative of the Queen Mother’s former dog.

She added: “She was a bridesmaid at my wedding last year, so has experience being around lots of people and music and is not fazed by crowds, noise or light.”

Kelly Monahan and dog Bella are to star in La Boheme

Kelly Monahan and dog Bella are to star in La Boheme

Bella will appear in the opera as Musetta’s dog in the cafe scene, with Kelly appearing alongside her as Musetta’s maid.

Award-winning opera director and producer Ellen Kent said: “People say never work with children or animals but I love to do both.

“The first time was 20 years ago when my pet cat Holly Go-Lightly was in one of my productions and was an instant hit.

“Since then we’ve had horses, dogs, goldfish and even a golden eagle with a 6ft wingspan on stage.

“Many years ago when we last did La Boheme and asked local people to volunteer their pets it was a huge success.

“We even used a rescue dog once and found him dozens of new owners.”

Regarded as one of the most romantic operas ever written, Puccini’s La Boheme introduces the international soprano Alyona Kistenyova as Mimi and stars Olga Perrier, the international French Soprano, as Musetta.

Set in Paris, it focuses on the love between seamstress Mimi and poet Rodolfo and this classic tale of Parisian love and loss features many famous arias including Your Tiny Hand is Frozen, They Call Me Mimi and Musetta’s Waltz.

La Boheme, which is at Sunderland Empire on Saturday, March 11, is sung in Italian with English surtitles.

•Tickets available in person at the Box Office on High Street West, from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022* or online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland*

*Calls cost up to 7p per minute plus your standard network charge. Booking fees may apply to telephone and online bookings