The first telecast of "Amahl" on NBC in twelve years. Because of a dispute over the NBC 1963 production, shot on videotape rather than shown live, composer-librettist Gian Carlo Menotti had refused permission for further telecasts of that production after 1966. See more »
The production itself is great, but the VHS could've been done so much better technically
I am an admirer of Menotti and his music, especially for the brilliant orchestration. Amahl and the Night Visitors is my personal favourite, with a truly emotional and always believable story and the music is simply beautiful.
This 1978 production is itself great. The problem is the VHS transfer, of all the videos and DVDs in my quite extensive(and still growing) opera collection, the transfer for the 1978 production of Amahl and the Night Visitors is one of the least satisfying, with shoddy/murky picture quality and constant colour shifts and distorted sound with a very unpleasant hiss played in Hi-Fi. This is especially apparent with the solos of the Mother, as I will say though Stratas is brilliant so there is one reason to at least tolerate it.
However, Amahl and the Night Visitors is a Christmas tradition for me and especially with the singing this one is one I like to revisit. The costumes and sets are splendid, despite the picture quality the production is shot in a somewhat cinematic style which I loved and I thought the staging generally was fine, though the staging with the light skipping music while Amahl was just standing there at the door instead of taking trips to and from it seemed rather disjointed for my tastes.
Musically, with Menotti's wonderful music, it is very solid. The tempos are quite slow, but the orchestra play beautifully and the conducting is appropriately tender. Besides, while people may argue that these tempos are slower than those of Menotti himself, I think the slow tempos further added to how moving the whole production was.
The singing is fantastic. Willard White as he always was/is is very commanding and his singing is still virile and rich, and Nico Castel proves himself to be a great character tenor with superb diction and often beautiful tone. Teresa Stratas both dramatically and vocally embodies the role of the Mother. Robert Sapolsky is also appealing in the title role.
Overall, I love the production, but it really does deserve a better transfer than this. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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