Tales of Passion and Betrayal was an audience-catching title for Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's night at the opera.
While betrayal was the domain of the operatic characters portrayed, passion aplenty was delivered by the APO with conductor Holly Mathieson, and six fine singers.
Perhaps courage could have been in that title, saluting musicians who nurtured our musical wellbeing with online performances during lockdown.
Special praise is also due for an orchestra hip enough to dress the singers in striking Liz Mitchell originals.
Simon O'Neill emerged as a genial MC after Mathieson had whetted our appetites with a crisp Bellini overture.
Arias and ensembles were cleverly contextualised.
Four extracts from Gounod's Romeo and Juliet moved from Natasha Wilson's sparkling waltz aria to O'Neill and a meticulously nuanced Anna Leese in the tragic couple's final duet.
In between, Wilson and Amitai Pati moved us as the lovers earlier in their relationship.
Puccini's La Boheme was represented by Pati and Leese as Rodolfo and Mimi, meeting for the first time, so dramatically engaging that it could have been on an opera house stage.
After interval, the Prelude to La Traviata led to another engrossing duet, as Oliver Sewell's Alfredo returned to Wilson's doomed Violetta.
Introducing two extracts from Verdi's Otello, O'Neill recalled fond memories of playing the Moor in the APO's 2016 concert staging of the opera. Some of us might have enjoyed reminiscing as well, when his rapturous duet with Leese was countered by his chilling call to God from later in the opera.
The evening ended with a toast from Traviata, but, first, Verdi's Rigoletto offered Wilson's deftly turned "Caro nome," and a swaggering "La Donne e Mobile" from Pati. In a miracle of score-tweaking, the famous quartet morphed into sextet, with Kristin Darragh's contributions making one wish that the mezzo had had her own solo turn.
What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
Where: Auckland Town Hall