A STAR is born...

A dog owned by a journalist working for The Bolton News made its stage debut at the weekend.

Irma Heger auditioned her Yorkshire Terrier, Ozzy, for Puccini’s La Boheme and was delighted when he won the walk-on part.

Ozzy played the role of singer Musetta’s pet dog in the opera, while Irma also made it on stage at the Manchester Opera House as flirtatious Musetta’s maid servant.

Dog and owner trod the boards together in Act Two, which takes place in a small, lively square outside the Cafe Momus.

Musetta, played by Olga Perrier, crossed herself three times backstage before leading the dog on stage to gasps of “ahhh” by the audience, then handed Ozzy over to Irma for the rest of the scene.

The petite four-year-old pooch behaved impeccably and wowed the audience, while a large cast of characters and extras sang in Italian all around him and his owner.

The end of the act saw Irma leading Ozzy off stage on the lead, followed by the eyes of the audience.

Irma and her dog only had five minutes to rehearse, half an hour before curtain up.

The pair shared a dressing room upstairs, denoted by a sign reading “Dog” on the door.

They appeared alongside the mainly Moldovan cast and crew of the celebrated Chisinau National Opera and National Philarmonic Orchestra, who are on tour in the UK until May.

The three-act opera is set in Paris and follows the tragic love between poet Rodolfo, played by Sorin Lupu, and seamstress Mimi, played by Elena Dee.

The stage manager had to make an exception to his usual calls to the stage in Moldovan, calling Irma and Ozzy in English over their dressing room loudspeaker: “Dog to the stage please”.

Mingling with the audience after his performance, several delighted opera-goers wanted to stroke the canine star of the show and cries of “bravo to the dog” were heard.

Director Ellen Kent was also very pleased with Ozzy’s performance.

Irma said: “Ozzy was great throughout the show.

“He was very excited to be treading the boards, though I was extremely nervous until we actually made our appearance together.

“It turned out to be fantastic fun for me, Ozzy and my two daughters — and a great honour to see ‘Irma Heger with her dog Ozzy’ on the cast list and ‘Musetta’s dog’ on the displays at the Opera House.

“Any animal casting agents please form an orderly queue here please.”