In the run up to their widely anticipated concert staging of Wagner's Das Rheingold this summer, Opera North are providing us with a number of events at their Howard Assembly Room which aim to explore different aspects of the Ring Cycle. From the technicalities of performance to the music which may have influenced Wagner's compositions, there are events for opera lovers of all levels to enjoy, and they began on Saturday night with an evening of words and music from legendary Wagnerian soprano, Dame Anne Evans.

Throughout her spectacular career, Evans has travelled the globe tackling the bulk of Wagner's soprano roles, gaining critical acclaim for her Elisabeth in Tannhäuser, her Senta in Der fliegende Holländer and of course, her Isolde. But it was her Brünnhilde in Daniel Barenboim's iconic Ring Cycle at Bayreuth in the early 1990s that cemented her reputation as one of the world's best Wagner interpreters, and it was this performance and her connection to the Ring Cycle as a whole which formed the basis of Saturday's event, aptly titled I Saw the World End.

Introduced warmly by Opera North's Music Director Richard Farnes, Evans spent the first half of the evening talking to ON's Editor Stuart Leeks about her operatic journey to Brünnhilde. Many critics and opera fans were surprised when she first became associated with the role, but none more so than Evans herself, who assumed her voice, which has been described as more lyric than heroic, was far more suited to Mozart than Wagner. She began her career singing Pamina in Die Zauberflöte and Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro until it was suggested that she might consider Ortrud in Lohengrin. Her interest in Wagner was piqued, and when she began studying at the Geneva Conservatoire, she made the decision to dip her toe into the Rhine.

Asking to sing a Rheinmaiden in a Geneva production of the Ring resulted in her being offered a Valkyrie and a Norn as well, but she still wasn't convinced. “You'll play Brünnhilde one day” Evans was told after her performance in Die Walküre, but by her own admission, she thought the prediction was crazy. She hung on to this view right up to the night of her début in the role of Brünnhilde for Welsh National Opera in the 1980s, refusing to sign the contract until her first performance was over. She needn't have worried, as her warm and gentle interpretation was extremely well received.

From that moment on, Evans would be forever linked with Brünnhilde, tackling the role in some of the world's most famous opera houses before auditioning for Barenboim's Bayreuth production of Der Ring des Nibelungen. This was a nerve racking experience at the Palais Garnier, accompanied by a young kid named Tony Pappano "who made the piano sound as if it were an entire orchestra.” Needless to say, the part was hers.

At this point in the evening, we were shown footage of some of Brünnhilde's key moments from the Barenboim production- her Act II entrance and duet with Wotan from Die Walküre, the awakening kiss from Siegfried and the betrayal and immolation scenes from Götterdämmerung. Hearing Evans provide commentary on the inspiration behind these well-known operatic moments was fascinating. We were let into the secret for singing a perfect "hojotoho!" after taking an energetic sprint onto the stage, and provided with anecdotes about her working relationships with co-stars Sir John Tomlinson and Siegfried Jerusalem. The directorial intentions of the Bayreuth Ring were also explored, as she explained how director Harry Kupfer developed his vision of Brünnhilde as a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis.

The second half of the evening was devoted to Das Rheingold, with Evans, who is acting as a consultant on the Opera North project, taking two of its singers through their paces. With ON's Head of Music Martin Pickard at the piano, Yvonne Howard (Fricka) and Giselle Allen (Freia) sang their respective parts with Evans stopping them intermittently to give instruction. Much of it seemed to focus on diction (she's very keen on making the most of the letter 'r') but there was plenty of clever technical advice to help the girls master some of the more difficult lines.

As a non-musical opera fan, it was fascinating to hear about language coaches, rehearsal periods and the acoustics of different venues. Watching a master class such as this is a real treat if you've never considered how the singers you admire develop their craft, and it provided a wonderful insight into the processes of learning and inhabiting some of the most challenging roles in opera. By the end of the evening I was entertained and educated in equal measure, anticipating Opera North's Das Rheingold excitedly, and feeling extremely privileged to have seen a singer as accomplished as Evans share her knowledge and experience.