Saturday, December 10, 2011

Amahl and the Night Visitors

Since its first performance on NBC TV, Christmas Eve, 1951, Amahl and the Night Visitors has taken its place with "A Christmas Carol" as a holiday classic. Peformed on every continent and in many languages, it has been seen by more people than any other opera in history.
The story tells of the night the Three Kings, following the star to Bethlehem, stop for shelter at the home of Amahl, a poor, crippled shepard boy who lives with his widowed mother. Inspired by the Wise Men's tale of a kingdom "built on love alone," Amahl offers his own simple gift to the Christ Child. And then a miracle happens.
In this warm and compassionate story, Gian Carlo Menotti has captured the essential spirit of Christmas. At its premiere, The New York Times called Amahl "rare art. . . tender and exquisite."

Gian Carlo Menotti was born in 1911 in a mountain village in northern Italy. He began composing at age five and had written his first opera before he was eleven. As a little boy, he was miraculously cured of lameness by a pilgrimage to the nearby Sanctuary of Sacro Monte. This was the genesis of Amahl and the Night Visitors, the first opera ever commisioned for television.
Sample or download the music here.

The Story of Amahl
Somewhere in the world lives a crippled little shepherd called Amahl, with his mother, an impoverished widow. Nothing is left to them of the little they ever had, and they are now faced with hunger and cold in their empty house.

Three Wise Men, on their way to Bethlehem, stop at the hut and ask to be taken in for the night. Amahl and his mother welcome them and their Page as well as they can, and are much astonished at the splendor of their robes and the wealth of gifts they are carrying with them. When Amahl's mother realizes that the Three Kings are looking for a newborn babe and that the expensive gifts are all destined for him, she becomes bitter and envious. She cannot understand why at least some of these gifts could not be given to her own child, who is so poor and sickly.
Under cover of darkness, while the Three Kings are asleep, she steals some of the gold from them - and is caught red-handed. When she explains to the Three Kings that she needs the gold to feed her starving child, she is readily forgiven. With great tenderness they try to explain to her who this newborn child is and how much he needs the love of every human being to build his coming kingdom. Touched by their words, the poor widow not only gives back the stolen gold, but wishes she could add a gift of her own. Little Amahl comes to her rescue. He impulsively hands the Three Kings his wooden crutch, his most precious possession, and in so doing he is miraculously cured of his lameness.
As dawn appears in the sky, the Three Kings prepare to resume their journey. Amahl begs his mother to let him join them, and he is finally allowed to follow the Kings to Bethlehem to adore and give thanks to the Christ Child.
(Synopsis taken from here.)

Amahl and the Night Visitors is one of our favorite Christmas stories, but we have only rarely been able to see it performed live. This year we will be seeing it in Evergreen, Colorado at Center/Stage, performed by the Evergreen Chorale.

Remaining Performances:
Thu, 12/22/2011 - 7:00pm
Fri, 12/23/2011 - 4:30pm

Fri, 12/23/2011 - 7:00pm.

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