SAMLING Academy Opera, joined by the Dunedin Consort, transported an audience back in time to the royal court of post-Restoration England, with a stunning double-bill production at Sage Gateshead.

The concert, featuring some of the region’s most talented young musicians in sumptuous period costume, opened with Henry Purcell’s joyful Come ye Sons of Art. Early music specialist John Butt on harpsichord, directed a refined overture, with Samling Artist countertenor Tim Morgan delivering the first song with radiant clarity.

Mezzo-soprano Rachel Bird sang with exquisite control in Sound the Trumpet; her lines entwined beautifully with those of countertenor Lewis Cullen, who in turn gave a haunting rendition of Strike the Viol.

A highlight was the duet Bid the Virtues, coupling the ravishing tones of soprano Ana Fernández Guerra with the warmth of Robert de Bree’s oboe obbligato.

Baritones Benjamin Laxton’s The day that such a blessing by baritone nd Peter Dunn’s florid bass solo, These are the sacred charms, were treats, along with See Nature rejoicing, sung by Emily Barnes and Patrick Owston.

John Blow’s masterpiece Venus and Adonis, directed by Samling Artist Miranda Wright and played respectively by soprano Zöe Jackson and baritone Richard Owston, was a triumph for all concerned.

Jackson sang with power, passion and depth across the range, while Owston’s rich tones oozed authority.

Morgan, sporting fetching wings, was a magnificent Cupid, while Little Cupids, Emily Barnes and Rachel Bird, excelled in their lesson to spell the word mercenary. The grief of Venus at the death of Adonis was conveyed with aching pathos by Jackson. the denouement greeted be whoops of delight.

Choreography by Royal Opera House’s Mandy Demetriou was dynamic and the lighting of Alex Edwards atmospheric.

Gavin Engelbrecht