Christmas opera, ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors’ next in Festival Series

BOWLING GREEN, O.—The Festival Series opens the season of giving with a Christmas opera, “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” Presented by the Bowling Green Opera Theater, performances will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 5, and at 4 p.m. Dec. 6 in the Thomas B. and Kathleen M. Donnell Theatre at the Wolfe Center for the Arts.

Composed by Gian Carlo Menotti, the opera is the touching story of Amahl, a poor shepherd boy with a crippled leg, who has an encounter with the three kings who are on their way to visit the newborn Jesus. During their visit, Amahl’s mother is at first tempted to steal the kings’ gold, but her impulse is later tempered into desire to meet this special baby. Amahl offers his crutch as a gift and experiences the miraculous healing of his crippled leg. The opera has captured audiences since Christmas Eve 1951, when it was first broadcast on NBC-TV. Its story line and shorter length make it appropriate for young children.

“With the shepherd's lilting madrigal, the Kings’ magisterial music, the Mother's soulful aria, and Amahl's joyous songs, this opera certainly has something for everyone,” said Kevin Bylsma, BGSU College of Musical Arts faculty member, who prepared the vocalists.

Menotti said of the work, “This is an opera for children because it tries to recapture my own childhood. You see, when I was a child I lived in Italy, and in Italy we have no Santa Claus … Our gifts were brought to us by the Three Kings, instead. To these Three Kings I mainly owe the happy Christmas seasons of my childhood, and I should have remained very grateful to them … But in 1951 I found myself in serious difficulty. I had been commissioned by the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) to write an opera for television, with Christmas as a deadline, and I simply didn't have one idea in my head. One November afternoon as I was walking rather gloomily through the rooms of the Metropolitan Museum, I chanced to stop in front of the ‘Adoration of the Kings’ by Hieronymus Bosch, and as I was looking at it, I then realized they had come back to me and had brought me a gift.”

That gift has delighted audiences ever since.

With stage direction by Geoff Stephensen, musical preparation by Bylsma and conducting by Emily Freeman Brown, the cast features Jennifer Cresswell as the Mother, Bethany Post and Maddie Russin alternating as Amahl, Tyler Dohar as King Kaspar, Richard Channell as King Melchior, Dean Moore as King Balthazar, Zach Shoot as The Page, and a chorus of shepherds including a dancing boy and girl. Set and lighting design are by Keith Hofacker, choreography by Tammy Metz Starr and stage-managing by Desiree Johnson.

Patrons attending Saturday afternoon’s performance are invited to stay afterwards for the 10th annual ArtsX beginning at 5 p.m. in the Wolfe Center and Fine Arts Building. ArtsX is a free event open to the public and offers interactive activities for all ages including art sales, ceramic, glass and jewelry demonstrations, improv ensembles, musical performances, Austrian-born artist Erwin Redl’s LED art installation in the Wolfe Center foyer and a team of aerial acrobats led by Erin Pearson-Garber, among others. Visit BGSU.edu/ArtsX for a complete schedule.

Tickets are $15 for the public and $5 for BGSU students and can be purchased online at bgsu.edu/arts or by calling the Arts Box Office at 419-372-8171.