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Posts Tagged ‘amahl’

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Photos: Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times
Annette Phuvan (left, with Janet Victors) said that
Amahl and the Night Visitors spoke to her of “miracles. Blessings. Generosity. Community.” She and others who have struggled with homelessness are performing the touching opera about poverty and hope.

In today’s story, two organizations that do good works all year-round have chosen an especially appropriate way to enhance the “comfort and joy” they deliver to others.

Tim Teeman writes at the Daily Beast, “The rich, collective sound of a choir warming their voices up filled the 15th-floor rehearsal room, Broadway and Times Square, a rainy, fogged-up blur outside the windows. Standing in a circle, and accompanied by a pianist, the group of tenors, basses, altos and sopranos practiced their scales, and then, as if in an urgent incantation, spoke the words of the score they would next sing.

“ ‘Free the body,’ instructed Michael A. Ciavaglia, the chorus master, eliciting much loose-limbed waving of arms, as the choir and soloists continued their preparations for On Site Opera’s production of Gian Carlo Menotti’s 45-minute Christmas Nativity opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, written for television and first performed on NBC in 1951.

“The show will be presented in the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen in Chelsea, and will feature professional musicians and vocalists alongside a chorus made up of people who have experienced homelessness and who now live at the 43rd Street site of Breaking Ground, New York City’s largest provider of permanent supportive housing for the homeless. …

” ‘The object is to find that perfect intersection of piece and place that speaks to us as producing artists and what we want to do in the greater arc of the company and then find the right place to do it in,’ said Eric Einhorn, the general and artistic director of On Site Opera. …

“They all sang in rousing unison: ‘How cold is the night, how icy is the wind.’ As formerly homeless people, they would know the meaning of those words more powerfully, and literally, than many.

“One of the choir, soprano Christine Flood, told The Daily Beast she had been a resident at Breaking Ground since New Year’s Eve 2016. She said she suffered from PTSD, resulting from ‘terrifying and violent’ childhood abuse while growing up in southern Ohio. She had been homeless in her late teenage years, and then suffered from drug and alcohol addiction. She has been sober for 12 years. …

“The opera was an excellent way to bring members of Breaking Ground together, she said, and had inspired Flood to suggest to those that run the community that she begin classes in teaching English to non-English speaking residents. ‘Language is both a big barrier, and a big invitation,’ the former teacher and dancer said.

“ ‘I’m much better than I was a year ago,’ Flood said of her general health. ‘Two years ago I couldn’t have done this opera. Last year at this time I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do it even, or this interview.’ Next, Flood wants to finish her master’s degree, and use her passion for theater and acting to ‘build positive change in my city and community.’ ”

More at the Daily Beast, here. At the New York Times, here, you can find some nice pictures of singers rehearsing for the production.

Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors is my all-time favorite — guaranteed to get me in the Christmas spirit.

From left: Kristine Flood, Wanda Ferrerias, Maya Lehmann, and Annette Phuvan join On Site Opera’s production of Amahl, thanks to Breaking Ground, a homeless-support organization in New York.

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Waiting

I went to the five-hanky Amahl and the Night Visitors again this year — so moving for so many reasons. I’m moved by the Italian composer’s last-minute inspiration to use the three kings of his childhood as the basis for the opera commissioned for a live television broadcast, the love between the mother and child, their extreme poverty, young Amahl’s optimism, the miracle, and numerous lines — “the keys to his kingdom belong to the poor,” “for such a king, I have waited all my life.”

Waited. Waiting.

The Catholic church in Concord sets up a crêche outside the parish hall every year. They don’t complete it and place the baby in the manger until Christmas Eve.

I like to think of the kneeling figures as waiting, although once the tableau is complete, they are seen as worshiping.

I see them as waiting and believing that a reason to be hopeful is coming. And I think their belief plays a role in making it come true.

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Gian Carlo Menotti composed Amahl and the Night Visitors for an NBC Christmas show in 1951. He was under deadline and drawing a blank when the painting “The Adoration of the Magi” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art sparked his childhood memories of three kings who visit Italian children with gifts.

I have seen the operetta and listened to the recording many times. It takes only the first few bars and the lovely oboe representing the shepherd boy’s pipe for me to bring out the tissues and start crying and smiling all the way through.

A production today at the Friends of the Performing Arts in Concord was excellent. Kim Lamoureux took the role of Amahl. Robert Runck was stage director. Robin Farnsley was music director. Farnsley also was a breathtaking Mother of Amahl. Her anguish in the scene where her fear for her son overcomes her is heartbreaking as she inches toward the gold of the sleeping kings.

“All that gold! All that gold!
I wonder if rich people know what to do with their gold?
Do they know how a child could be fed? Do rich people know?”

You may read the whole script of this short operetta here. And there are lots of snippets on YouTube. I include one from the 50s.

Update: December 22, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Amahl and the Night Visitors, with soloists Julia Shneyderman, Robin Farnsley, Ray Bauwens, Brad Amidon, Thomas Dawkins, and Michael Prichard. Chorus and orchestra conducted by Alan Yost,  Tickets $20 adults/$10 students. Call 978 369-7911 or buy on-line.

Follow us on twitter @LunaStellaBlog.

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