Read about the concert here, and about Stuart's reasons for making it happen here. If you've already booked, then I salute you! If you haven't, and you're in London and free this Thursday, this is my shameless attempt to change your plans.
1. Because I said so. But if that's not enough, read on.
2. To show ENO some love. It's true, I'm biased towards this company, since they're the main reason I get to spend so much time in my favourite city, but whatever your own reason for loving (or even just quite liking) ENO, a ticket for this gala is a really excellent way to show them just how much you care.
3. All proceeds from the concert go towards ENO's brilliant Harewood Artists programme, which offers all kinds of vital support to young and developing opera singers. Nicky Spence, Kate Valentine, Mary Bevan and the list goes on...how could you say no to these names?
4. You don't have to be Sir Vernon Ellis to be a patron of the arts. I reckon a ticket to this concert totally qualifies you to describe yourself as such for at least a year. Call it smug value, call it philanthropy, either way, you'll feel better afterwards.
7. Emotional blackmail. Look, I'm not saying you have to come. I'm just saying everyone who's in this concert has been working really, really hard lately on all sorts of shows in all sorts of places and nevertheless have volunteered their services on what would have been a rare night off...so, you know, it would be nice if they had a big, friendly audience to sing to. No pressure...just saying...
8. Convert-A-Friend. If there's somebody you're trying to convert to opera, and dragging them to a full show is proving difficult, maybe this concert could be a more gentle gateway drug. It's all reasonably familar repertoire, but nothing too chestnutty, and I can promise you that the second half (and for that matter, some of the first) will prove wrong any doubter who still thinks opera singers are posh and stuffy. Which brings me to...
9. There will be some definite letting down of hair. And possibly some fairly high campery.
10. There will also be Wagner and Handel and Bizet and various other delights.
11. All the operatic excerpts will be in the original language: a nice change, perhaps, if you're used to hearing these singers in translation at ENO.
12. Let's face it, there won't be many more chances to hear Stuart as Don José. I've never heard him do it – though it used to be one of his signature roles – and I'm expecting it to be pretty amazing.
13. Three words: Pamela Helen Stephen. I don't know about you, but I am such a fan and I can't decide which item I'm most excited to hear her sing: the Handel aria in the first half, or [AMAZING SPOILER REDACTED] in the second half.
14. Neither ENO nor Cadogan Hall has listed the complete programme so there's only one way to find out what surprises await and you know what that is. Book now!
15. If all goes to plan, this could well be the only place in London doing any Verdi on Verdi's birthday.
16. Because it's a bit of a bargain. I know, I know, you could stand and watch an opera for significantly less, but still: £30 or £50 for these singers in a concert as fabulously varied (and slightly mad) as this one seems like pretty good value for money to me.
17. It's a really excellent excuse to go to any of these restaurants. Go on.
18. Because you've heard Sarah Tynan as Marzelline and you know how gorgeously she sings. Or, because you haven't heard Sarah Tynan as Marzelline (why not?!) and therefore, trust me, you ought to find out how gorgeously she sings. Bonus adorability points: she'll be singing with her husband, Leigh Melrose. (See above.)
19. There is at least one item on this programme which I can pretty much guarantee is an absolute one-off. Chances are you won't hear it performed in this way, by these people, ever again. I'm not giving away any more detail than that but it's the kind of thing which, if I missed the concert and read about it in a review afterwards, might well cause me to kick myself.
20. Bribery and corruption. Let me put it like this: if, hypothetically, you were to book a ticket on the strength of this blog post, and then, let's say, you told me you'd done so, then theoretically I would not be above furnishing you with some sort of small cake-based compensation. If you get my drift.
21. If you're still reading, you must be at least a little bit tempted, so if you're in London and free on Thursday, consider this your final push. Book now.