For those wanting to break the routine of a workday lunch, they could garnish their pasta with a little Puccini, slice some Bizet onto their sandwiches, or swap a beetroot salad for a Beethoven sonata, as free concerts returned to the heart of Newcastle on Wednesday.
The first of four lunchtime concerts was staged in City Hall, with a string of classical pieces performed by members of Hunter Opera.
"This just brings back live music to the community after what has been a rough year, and this is something that's simple, yet joyful, which allows people to come out again," said Cr Carol Duncan, from City of Newcastle's Community and Culture Advisory Committee.
As well as the sound of beautiful music drifting through the concert hall, you could almost hear the sighs of relief and delight - from both the stage and the audience of about 40 - that concerts were back.
"Audiences need music," said singer Sam Elmi, whose big tenor voice rang through the hall, including in a Massenet composition, "Why do you awaken me?", a title seemingly tailored for the long COVID slumber.
As Dr Elmi acknowledged, performers needed music too: "That's the joy of life; if you can't sing, what's the point?".
Audience member Matthew Brooks had travelled 45 minutes from Wangi Wangi to attend the lunchtime concert.
"This is fabulous," Mr Brooks said. "It's a real concert with real music, real people and real clapping."
His concert companion, Kate Rendle, had come in from the University of Newcastle campus next door, where she worked in the library.
"I don't usually get to things outside of work hours, so to do this at lunchtime, it's brilliant," she said.
Such was the excitement in the room that pianist Mercia Buck invited the audience to tango. Perhaps she knew that around the same time as she and violinist Catherine Sheng-Cooper were playing "Libertango", Premier Gladys Berejiklian was announcing a loosening of COVID restrictions, including allowing up to 50 people on a dance floor, from Monday. However, no one tangoed in City Hall.
The venue is also hosting a couple of concerts for paying audiences, including a performance by renowned opera singer Teddy Tahu Rhodes and flautist Jane Rutter on Saturday.
The free weekly lunchtime concerts were given an encore, explained Civic Theatre manager Leonie Wallace, after they had proven popular last year.
"It's just such a beautiful venue to cool down in, listen to some music, have your lunch, meet some friends," she said. "It's 45 minutes. There's nothing better to do than that during the day."
Read more: A concert for one played by one.
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