Gian Carlo Menotti's Christmas masterpiece, Amahl and
the Night Visitors, comes alive in this exciting production.
A young boy and his mother find their lives changed forever
after a visit from the three wise men on their journey to
the manger. This lavish production features singers, dancers
and a chamber orchestra and is also available with piano accompaniment.
Amahl and the Night Visitors is ideal for series performances,
family audiences and student bus-in events.
'Amahl' makes rewarding visit to the Arts Center
Opera works its holiday charms at Founders Hall
Review by Peter Lefevre, Orange
Southland Opera, a fledgling company of 27 months, has spent
the bulk of its existence in operatic outreach to schools
throughout Southern California. Sunday night, the company
made its first appearance at the Orange County Performing
Arts Center, presenting a production of Gian Carlo Menotti's
"Amahl and the Night Visitors" in Founders Hall.
Menotti's charming fable concerns the three kings of the
Nativity story as they rest in the home of the young, crippled
Amahl and his widowed mother on the road to Bethlehem. The
opera was the first to be commissioned specifically for television
(which prompted the great flood of operas commissioned for
TV since. Ahem.), and since its 1951 debut it has become a
Colorful, comic, challenging - it works on the heartstrings
without manipulating them, offering within its simple and
organic narrative an emotional statement of selflessness,
faith and forgiveness.
As handled by the Southland Opera, the charm and emotional
gravity remain intact. Sunday night's performance, while touched
by the occasional opening-night wobble, hit the right notes.
Uniformly well-acted and skillfully sung, the production is
sentimental without being kitschy, reverent without being
preachy, innocent without being naive.
Leading the cast, Michelle Sarkesian as Amahl's mother was
everything one might hope for in the role. She had a clear,
grounded, supple voice, thorough characterization, connection
to the stage action and to the audience - a gifted and generous
So, too, were the three kings, played by Steve Parkin, Jason
Daniel and Cedric Berry, all of whom shone in their individual
roles. Parkin, portraying the doddering Kaspar, showed deft
comic timing. And Daniel created a genuinely touching moment
toward the end as he sang of the infant Christ's ultimate
destiny. Berry displayed a rich, effortless bass throughout:
an elegant voice of polish and resonance.
As Amahl, Jason Grishkoff negotiated the role's tricky melodic
turns and challenging range with maturity and poise. He showed
no tentativeness and was confident and buoyant, with a bit
of strain at the higher end of his range, but a strong effort.
The ensemble acquitted itself well, Torbjorn Pedersen made
the most of his moments as the Page, and Rebekah Lyons and
Scott Dicken undertook the dance episode, managing to give
a sense of expansion and freedom within cramped quarters.
Parkin's direction moved briskly, taking the laughs and the
somber moments as they came, with little stage clutter and
a high energy level. A serviceable set provided the backdrop.
Ricardo Soto conducted the smallish orchestra, with notable
contributions from oboist Larry Timm, and yeoman's work from
pianist Mark Salters. "Amahl and the Night Visitors"
concludes Tuesday evening, with Eli Villanueva stepping into
the role of King Balthazar.
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