See Tickets


Preview: MIRACLE! at Sunderland Minster

Follow North East Theatre Guide on Twitter at and on Facebook at

Music in the Minster presents:

MIRACLE! An Opera of Two Halves
Sunderland Minster, High Street West, SR1 3ET
Friday 27th - Sunday 29th November 2015

Writer: David Almond
Composer: Marcos Fernandez

Drama, teamwork, passion, training...opera and football have more in common that you might think. So what better subject for Wearside’s first opera than Sunderland AFC? Written by award-winning author David Almond and composer Marcos Fernandez, Miracle! An Opera of Two Halves has been commissioned by Music in the Minster - a registered charity that brings experts from the world of opera to share their skills with the communities of Wearside.

The charity’s patron, the renowned baritone Sir Thomas Allen CBE, was born in the North East mining village of Seaham and educated at Ryhope Grammar School. A star of the great opera houses of the world, Sir Thomas is a great supporter of music education. He is Chancellor of Durham University and in July was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Royal College of Music, where he used his speech to urge new graduates to “embrace a bigger world than just music”.

David Almond at
An Opera for Sunderland launch
at the Stadium of Light
Photo: North News
He explains, “There are several memories that are indelible when it comes to looking back over an upbringing in the Sunderland area. One has to be the sport, and whilst I was never talented enough to get onto a football team at any age from 9 to 18, I did enjoy rugby and usually managed to get to Roker Park after a Saturday morning match with my Ryhope teammates including Stan Anderson, Jimmy Montgomery, George Mulhall and of course the great Charlie Hurley.

“And as if that wasn't enough, there were also those occasions when I had a concert in the evening...Dream of Gerontius and St Matthew Passion both come to mind at the Sunderland Empire. So you see it is possible to enjoy all these things both cultural and sporting in one go. Music in the Minster are just about to prove it once more and I send all my best wishes to the team for great success.”

l-r Baritone Miles Horner and Tenor Jonathan Cooke
rehearse with chorus
Photo: David Tiernan
The creative team includes award-winning North East author David Almond (Skellig, Sage Gateshead), international award-winning composer Marcos Fernandez (Noctum, Cre.Art Ensemble, New York), director Annie Rigby (Lands of Glass, Unfolding Theatre), designer Gayle Playford (Wolf Hall, BBC), and Sunderland-born mezzo-soprano Alison Barton (Artistic Director of Music in the Minster).

Chorus rehearse on the terraces for MIRACLE
Photo: David Tiernan
42 local singers aged 12-70 will join a cast of professional soloists. Nottingham-born baritone Ian Priestley will play God/Larry. After studying at Guildhall, Ian has toured with the D’Oyly Carte and Carl Rosa opera companies and has appeared at the Buxton International Festival, with the Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera, Opera North and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Angelo will be played by Cheshire tenor Jonathan Cooke (La Bohème, Grange Park Opera); baritone and keen sportsman, Miles Horner (Don Giovanni, Focus Opera) plays Sunderland AFC legend Hughie Mann; and Veronica will be sung by soprano Caroline Kennedy (The Magic Flute, Scottish Opera).

Soloist Fiona Gill with baritone
Miles Horner as SAFC legend Hughie Mann
Photo: David Tiernan
Writer David Almond explains the plot, “All teams need a miracle when they’re heading for the drop. Things are getting desperate in the Stadium of Light. But God looks down and takes pity on the Black Cats. An angel named Angelo is sent to earth to play in red and white, and the miracle begins to unfold. But what about Hughie Mann, the local lad, who has been star striker until now? And what about the temptations of fame?

Will Angelo be seduced by Barcelona, Bayern Munich, or Man United? And is he just a flash in the pan, another false messiah? And what about God, who wants his angel back again?

Miracle! is a football opera for Sunderland. It takes place in the Stadium of Light, in Sunderland’s streets, on Roker Beach. It's sung in the lovely Sunderland voice. It’s driven by the chanting and singing of the crowd, and by a love of the beautiful game. It’s an opera that’s filled, like football itself, with reckless hope and dread despair. It echoes with the triumphs of the past, and points towards the glories of the future.

Miracle! is a love story, in which an angel sent from Heaven falls in love with an ordinary town and its ordinary streets - an angel who is swept off his feet by a lovely local lass from Pennywell.”

An Opera for Sunderland creative
team at the Stadium of Light
Photo: North News
As with all of Music in the Minster’s work, An Opera for Sunderland is very much about opportunities for local people to take part – from sharing their stories, to workshops and performance opportunities. Music in the Minster have been working with Foundation of Light, The Cultural Spring and Sunderland City Council Library Services to involve as many local residents as possible, including Black Cats’ Stories – fans’ digital stories about their experiences as supporters, creating a snapshot of what football means to people in the city; free singing roadshows, and open workshop auditions.

Sunderland-born Artistic Director Alison Barton explains, “I remember the atmosphere in Sunderland when the Black Cats won the FA cup in 1973. It was like an electric current running right through every home, school, workplace and street. Bobby Kerr even visited my school. Everyone felt part of it.

“The next time I felt that way was on stage as a teenager, appearing in my first opera. Sadly over the years, the opportunities for people in the region to experience that same thrill dwindled, but now, thanks to funding from Arts Council England, Music in the Minster is creating an Opera for Sunderland, set in the world of football. Parallels between football and opera are legion. The elite performers in both dedicate their lives to training and discipline – but anyone can ‘have a go’.”

MIRACLE! An Opera of Two Halves is at Sunderland Minster from 27-29 November 2015 at 7.30pm, plus 2.30pm matinee on Sun 29 November.
Tickets priced £10 / £8 concessions are now available online at
0844 8700 887*

*No booking fees for e-tickets; Ticket Source fees apply for phone bookings or tickets delivered by post

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.