The Secret Opera Society event at restaurant Centotre brings together music and cuisine in a stunning fusion of Italian culture with a strong Scottish sensibility and humour. The waiting staff at Centotre were joined by the Secret Opera Singers, taking the ‘singing waiter’ concept to new operatic heights.
After being seated, tearing savagely at focaccia like the hungry students we were and feeling very underdressed, we saw head waiter ‘Valentino’ take to the stage: the space between the tables. With a sense of profundity, he explained gravely that opera is the most beautiful music, and that the most beautiful music must be sung ‘in Italiano’. Naturalmente. He then proceeded to sing La Donna E Mobile. It was indeed beautiful. The high ceilings of the restaurant made for wonderful if unconventional acoustics, and the columns and frescoes decorating the space added to the Mediterranean atmosphere.
However, this evening was anything but traditional and grandiose: after Valentino’s tour de force, a verbose young Scottish waiter began insisting he could sing much better, launching into a rip-roaring rendition of ‘500 Miles’ by The Proclaimers. Injecting humour was a shrewd move, as it transformed what could have descended into an elite evening of high culture into a show appealing to everyone. ‘La Donna’ was in fact more my glass of prosecco than ‘500 Miles’, but the latter immediately got the audience on the side of the performers.
The rest of the show unfolded in a mixture of the profound and the fluffy, the comedic and the sincere, as plates of delicious food were produced by real waiters, thankfully: I had been dubious of asking a singer to perform a tricky aria and simultaneously dole out tiramisu. A giggling waitress was cajoled into singing by Valentino, who later in the evening revealed himself to be actually from Aberdeen and therefore as Italian as a deep-fried Mars Bar. He pronounced her yowling attempts at scales into the microphone as ‘bella, mia cara!’, before telling her to sing a song ‘in Italiano’. The scalded cat impression melted into a heartbreakingly lovely soprano as she performed Nella Fantasia, a classical crossover song, followed by an aria from Puccini’s Tosca.
There were plenty of numbers catering more to a cabaret audience, with the duet ‘Tonight’ from West Side Story and a few songs from Les Miserables providing some lighter entertainment. While this made the show appeal to a broader audience, personally I could have done with a little more opera: it was all great fun, but I wish that the skilled singers from ‘Secret Opera’ had tackled something more challenging, and perhaps lesser known. Even so, for some fantastic food in an even better atmosphere, with serenades from truly talented performers, look no further than the next Secret Opera at Centotre. Bellissimo.