The first television production of "Amahl" in which the role of King Balthazar was sung by a real African-American. Earlier productions, including the 1951 original version, had had a white man in blackface singing the role. See more »
As close to definitive as you can get with Amahl and the Night Visitors, deserves a DVD release
Amahl and the Night Visitors isn't Gian-Carlo Menotti's most well-known and most performed opera for nothing. It still has the beautiful melodic writing and vivid poetry that form the words of each song/aria, and it also has a story that is incredibly touching and that we can identify completely with. Of the scant DVD collection, the Rosemary Kuhlmann production is a must see, the quality does show its age but the singing and emotional impact are so strong, and while it is badly served on DVD the Teresa Stratas production is also great. This 1963/4 version is for me even better than both, but sadly as of now isn't on DVD and it really deserves to be. Seeing the whole thing on Youtube will have to do for now but the production does deserve more. The costumes and sets are traditional and simple while also being appealing. The picture and sound are on the primitive side but it is not a liability at all, we can still see the drama and connect with the music. The staging allows the story to come through and the emotion also, the story still makes me tear up and the emotion is very evident and not in a way that feels forced. This is the Box and Don't You Dare stood out. The orchestra play beautifully and are nicely understated, matching the drama nuance by nuance. The conducting never dulls the story while also accommodating the performers. The score is still an absolute beauty and Menotti's words still vivid. Kurt Yaghjian's Amahl is really outstanding, even outdoing Bill McIver. He is boyish, innocent, caring, utterly devoted(Don't You Dare couldn't be a more perfect example of this) and with a curiosity streak, and he has a quite angelic treble voice. He brings also wonderful inflections to the role that stand out as unique, when asked if his parrot bites by Casper he replies mournfully with a yessss and his Look Mother I Can Dance is equally memorable as well as the most convincing physical stuff with his crutch. Martha King has a most beautiful voice and is most heartfelt as Amahl's mother, as with Rosemary Kuhlmann before her she also feels the words. Advantaged by his imposing physique and very resonant basso voice Willis Patterson's Balthsar is sometimes scary but mostly sympathetic. John McCollum partners Yaghjian beautifully in This is the Box, and while he doesn't leave as big an impression as the others did Richard Cross is a commanding Melchior too. All in all, simply wonderful and close to definitive, most likely so actually. But it does deserve a DVD release, and one that hopefully fares better in quality than the two productions already available. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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