By Michael Kahn
PRAGUE (Reuters) - British pop star George Michael returned to the stage late Monday for an emotional performance at the opulent Prague State Opera where he announced his split from long-term partner Kenny Goss.
The former Wham! singer took the sell-out crowd through a range of covers and rare performances of songs during the first of 195 concerts on his "Symphonica" tour -- his first since leaving jail last October after serving a month for crashing his car while on drugs.
Michael clearly enjoyed himself during his first outing with the Czech National Symphony behind him, though he showed some nerves at times in the 123-year old opera house.
"I don't know what to do," he joked to the crowd early in the show.
The 48-year-old, wearing his trademark sunglasses and donning a dark suit, also paid tribute to the late Amy Winehouse and came close to tears before diving into a melancholy cover of her "Love is a Losing Game."
He also showed his emotions when revealing to the crowd that he had not been with Goss for two-and-a-half years mainly due to his former partner's struggles with alcohol.
"My battles with substances are well documented and my partner went through similar problems with drink," Michael said when introducing a song inspired by the split called "Where I Hope You Are."
"The truth is my love life has been a lot more turbulent than I have let on. This is probably the first break-up song I've written."
One highlight of the night was a cover of Terence Trent D'Arby's "Let Her Down Easy," which Michael introduced by criticizing the record industry's treatment of the singer.
Many fans were expecting Michael to sing his big hits, but he stuck to stripped-down versions of lesser-known songs and covers including "Roxanne" by the Police and a belting version of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good."
He finally relented during the encore when he got the crowd dancing and singing in the aisles with a medley of "Amazing," "Freedom" and "I'm Your Man."
"You deserve a sing-along" he said before launching into the well-known numbers.
(Reporting by Michael Kahn, Editing by Mike Collett-White)