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Last Updated: Monday, 18 February 2008, 14:20 GMT
Opera saved by member of audience
Opera singers bowing at London's Coliseum
Paul Whelan, second left, did not have time to change into costume
An opera singer has saved the opening night of a show by stepping in for the lead singer after he took ill on stage.

Bass-baritone Paul Whelan was in the audience for Lucia di Lammermoor at London's Coliseum on Saturday when Clive Bayley lost his voice.

Mr Whelan, who was due to play the part next month, sang from the side of the stage as Mr Bayley stayed on to mime.

Mr Whelan told The Daily Telegraph it was "an extraordinary experience".

'Electric evening'

He added: "We had an extraordinary reaction from the audience."

Mr Bayley, who was playing the pastor Raimondo, struggled through the first 40-minute scene of the production with a chest infection, before realising he was unable to continue.

Mr Whelan made it to the stage before the second scene but did not have time to change into 19th Century costume.

Before the opening night there had been concern over the health of leading lady Anna Christy, who had been suffering from bronchitis.

An understudy was drafted in but not needed.

A spokesman for the English National Opera said: "It was an electric evening all round.

"There was such an enthusiastic response from the audience, and then when Paul stepped forward to take his bow, the house erupted."

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