Lots to like. As expected this functioned as yet another vote-em-off, with game celebrities being entertaining. It helped that the ITV production team in the studio had got the feel of the show just right, helped by the mad rush to get everyone done in the time and seasoned with the latent boyband-premenstrual hysteria. The event was all riotous showbiz. I thought that the arrangements of the music worked well (with the exception of giving Darius Campbell Nessun Dorma necessarily transposed down a fifth).
The show's problems will emerge later, as the popular repertoire gets used up and there's more and more time to fill. The less savoury part of the evening came with the panel giving their opinions.
Convention - and courtesy - dictates that the judges blanderdise (i.e. standardise to the point of being bland) any real opinion with pertinent waffle. Meat Loaf was the best at this, displacing the need to opine by explaining what the contestants were singing about*. Instead we all looked to Rolando Villazón, who was indispensable... but not simply because of his indisputable credentials. No, this man clearly regards the contestants not only with the compassion due the nervous-brave but also as some sort of industry peers. There was not a scintilla of patronising in his assessment. He was enthusiastic without being Meat Loaf-frenetic and exuded the confidence of the knowledgeable.
Which is more than could be said for Katherine Jenkins. She has a bit of talent but this show will test to the limit her professional ability to conceal her shortcomings. The panel concludes with Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen who is making up numbers in an unattractively self-satisfied manner.
Opera is not exactly being plundered as a fresh carcass for a brittle media machine. Yet there is little attempt to investigate opera in any way. It's a relief that the remarkable Rolando Villazón is managing to defend its integrity - not by talking about the art form but by behaving in a manner that represents its associated artists as compassionate, intelligent and sincere.
* a lot of fuss was made by most involved about learning a language. Whilst one appreciates that the priority is listening to the quality of the singing, surely in these days of red-buttonising broadcasts we could be given the opportunity to follow what the contestants have been working so hard to absorb and communicate via subtitles?