The first U.S. production of "Amahl" to actually be filmed; all previous productions had either been telecast live or on videotape. This was also the first production of the opera in which any part of it was filmed on location in the Holy Land. See more »
Gian Carlo Menotti delivers a Christmas classic with Amahl and the Night Visitors. It is the touching story of a crippled boy who is visited by the Three Wise Men on their way to see the newborn Jesus Christ. Arnin Brown directs this made for TV production and brings new life to Menotti's music and words. His set design, although small, is perfect for an intimate feel of Menotti's story and brings the audience right into the home of this impoverished Hebrew family. Supporting Menotti's music and Brown's staging is a stellar cast of performers whom shine as bright as the star over Bethlehem.
Familiar face Willard White portrays the wise Balthazar, king of Sheba. His booming and rich bass-baritone voice is supported by his believable facial expressions and commanding stage presence, which keeps the eye well focused on him throughout the opera. Appearing as the Arabian King Kaspar is Italian diction pedagogue Nico Castel. Castel, who is hailed as one of the greatest character tenors of our time, delivers a performance that echoes his title. His quirky mannerisms matched with his clear diction and ingenious interpretations of the text create a character that is wholly honest and believable, as well as comic. This is perceived especially in Kaspar's arietta, "This is My Box." However, the star that shines brightest is Teresa Stratas as Amahl's mother. Her lyric-soprano interprets Menotti's music and words masterfully to the point that her delivery of the text is as natural as spoken dialogue. While vocal musicality is enough for many prime donne, it was not for Ms. Stratas. In fact, her musical prowess is only outmatched by physical characterization. Not only did her face show the emotions the character was feeling, but her whole body seemed to be driven by the same emotions. Towards the end of the opera, the Kings are asleep and The Mother sees the unattended box of gold to be presented to the newborn King. At this dramatic moment, Ms. Stratas is entirely her character as her eyes shine green with greed and she sits only quietly singing to herself, "All that gold!"
Amahl and the Night Visitors is not a typical opera by most standards. One will not sit through four hours of big divas with spears and horned helmets, nor will he find fat tenors singing high C's to women with double D's. One will find however, an honest story of sorrow, pity, greed, rage, and forgiveness and all of it in about the time it takes Mike Wallace to read the Sunday news. Gian Carlo Menotti's imagination and the Christmas spirit collaborate on this beautifully simple opera to bring us a timeless work of art.
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