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Posts Tagged ‘operetta’

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.

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We had already bought tickets for the new version of Porgy and Bess at the American Repertory Theater when Stephen Sondheim weighed in with an angry letter to the NY Times. He had not seen the show, but he apparently resented the tone of an article’s quotes from A.R.T. He may have thought director Diane Paulus and writer Suzan-Lori Parks were implying that they were better than the show’s original creators.

After the opening, Ben Brantley of the NY Times raved about Audra McDonald’s Bess while giving a mostly lukewarm review to everything else. Meanwhile, the student D.J. at Emerson College’s radio station kept reading promos for the show and pronouncing Porgy as “Porjy.” (He will always be Porjy to me now).

By the time our matinee rolled around, the day was almost too beautiful to be in a dark theater for three hours, and our initial anticipation had been reduced to mild curiosity.

So I’m happy to say we really liked A.R.T.’s Porgy — pretty much everything about it.

I admit that I am not intimate with the whole score and therefore was not always able to tell when new material had been inserted. (One line, about saving to send the baby to college, did come across with a loud, anachronistic clunk — but now a blog reader tells me it was in the original!) But the beauty of the songs, the dancing, the characters making the best of no-options, the love story! I cried pretty much the whole way through. And I’m still singing.

The only other Porgy and Bess I’d seen was directed by Bobby McFerrin in Minneapolis. It was long and kind of confusing, but I accepted that that’s the way opera often is. The A.R.T. may have presented a rejiggered story that was not true to the original, but it was a story that I could follow.

As I said to my husband on the way out, “Well, it worked for me.”

He said, “Sondheim should rethink his position.”

P.S. Audra McDonald was breathtaking.

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