Tosca live: It's access all arias as Belfast City Hall opens up to Puccini's classic
AFTER almost a week of culture wars raging in Belfast, last night City Hall was an oasis of tranquillity as the sound of music filled the air.
Hundreds of opera lovers grabbed their deck chairs, outdoor blankets and picnics to hear Puccini's classic Tosca.
The Royal Opera production was broadcast live on the big screen from the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, much to the delight of fans soaking up the atmosphere and the evening sunshine.
The balmy weather was a far cry from the years of rain suffered by audiences in the traditional venue of Botanic Gardens.
Tucking into a picnic and glasses of wine, Shirley McCay and Eileen Knox were making the most of the cultural event.
"After so many years of watching the performance in the rain, it's just unbelievable that here we are outside in Belfast – and it's sunny," Ms McCay said. "I have to say, it's good to be alive in the city, this is just another reason to show why it's such a fantastic place to live and, of course, a good excuse to be young at heart."
With sunglasses at the ready, relaxing on an outdoor pillow propped up against a statue in the City Hall's lawns, opera-lover Ann Murphy couldn't have been happier to enjoy one of her favourite past-times in the outdoor space.
"I'm a big fan of opera and to watch something I love out here in the middle of Belfast – it's just perfect and so much nicer than having it inside. It really does it justice," she said.
"After so much negative news of trouble here over the past week – this truly shows what our city is about."
Among the locals was a native Italian, pleased to have his culture booming down Royal Avenue. Andrea Canfoza had cleared his schedule to catch the open-air viewing.
"I think I have the edge on the locals because I understand everything, this is my own culture and I love it. More importantly I love the fact others are sharing it," he said.
"Compared to other cities in Europe, like Paris, this type of event is a novelty in Belfast – it should be more normal, and I would encourage more events like this."
For the third time in a year, Holywood girl Jessica Brien couldn't be torn away from the big screen.
"I was here for the opening ceremony of the Olympics last year, Andy Murray in his winning performance at Wimbledon only a few weeks ago and now this fantastic experience bringing the whole community together," she said.
Belfast joined Cardiff, Manchester and Canary Wharf in London among other locations to play host to the live outdoor experience, hosted by broadcaster Alan Titchmarsh.