THIS Opera North and Leeds Playhouse co-production of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, casts a soft golden glow over the Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre.

Sondheim’s inspiration was the 1955 Ingmar Bergman film Smiles on a Summer Night. The location is early 20th century northern Sweden, land of the midnight sun.

Virtually the whole of Sondheim’s scintillating score is in 3/4 waltz time. This is a celebration of the Viennese waltzes of Johann Strauss ll - a veritable orgy of melodies that express yearning and longing for lost loves and a lost world. Jonathan Tunick’s orchestration for strings, woodwind, brass, percussion, piano and celeste sounds utterly ravishing in the tender care of the Orchestra of Opera North, conducted by James Holmes. The 25-piece band is (mostly) invisible behind a gauze, upstage of the acting area.

Sondheim’s liberal use of the musical device known as “counterpoint” projects the complex web of relationships, centred around Desiree Armfeldt, a once glamorous actress now reduced to small provincial tours. The counterpoint extends to the vocal parts, particularly the dazzling ensemble number A Weekend in the Country and the Quintet which comments throughout in the style of a Greek Chorus.

Sondheim preferred to cast actors who could sing (rather than singers who could act) in principal roles. The sardonically witty Madame Armfeldt who lists horizontal encounters with crowned heads of Europe in her soulful song, Liaisons, was originally created for the deep husky voice of Hermione Gingold. This is a gem of a role for the legendary soprano Dame Josephine Barstow who now adds a smoky baritone to her extensive vocal range.

Sondheim composed Desiree’s famous, Send in the Clowns, for Glynis Johns who reputedly “could not hold a phrase”. Stephanie Corley could probably sing this lovely song in a single phrase. Her beautifully poised performance made the eyes prick with tears.

A Little Night Music is that kind of a bewitching bittersweet show. Nostalgia, comedy and romantic intrigue abound on a Scandinavian midsummer’s night when the sun never sets. James Brining’s production is unmissable.

The show runs at Leeds Playhouse until Saturday 17th July.