Space Theatre, Thu Dec 4
Amahl And The Night Visitors is a different take on Christmas that is far from the commercial world of Santas and presents. Written by Gian Carlo Menotti and co-produced by musical director Emma Knights, Amahl was first performed in 1951. This opera goes for one hour and quickly moves through the story, which is part fairy-tale, part bible story complete with a miracle. It is set in a village of shepherds and shepherdesses on the route the night visitors, The Three Kings take to get to Bethlehem.
Amahl is a young disabled shepherd boy who lives with his widowed mother. They are very poor and at this night are down to their lowest point, realising that they must take up begging to survive. The opera opens with a domestic scene establishing their loving relationship while at the same time showing the typical mother frustrations with an imaginative child who won’t go to bed or who makes up wild tales as they argue over bedtime. His mother does not believe him when he tells her there is a wonderful huge star in the sky. It is very humorous and Karen Lettice as the mother and Aidan Hutson-Hill as Amahl are delightful as the main characters with strong singing and believable acting. Aiden is marvellous in the role as he is word perfect and conveys such a range of emotions throughout the opera.
The Three Kings knock on their door and are invited in despite the poverty of the house, offered warmth and food, which is donated by their neighbours in the village. There is great humour in this scene as we hear Amahl’s mother disbelieve his tale that there are three kings at the door. She finally realises that everything he has told her all night is true. There is a happy scene where the villages come to see the kings and dance for their entertainment, moving from fear of the kings to a joyful community event; the chorus of villagers sound beautiful, the harmonies lush and rich. Likewise the deeper tones of the Three Kings reverberate in the Space Theatre. Each king establishes his character with humour – Branko Lovrinov as Kaspar and Keith Hampton as Balthazar are particularly engaging.
The story they tell of going to find a special child resonates with the mother and her anguish as she questions why it is not her child that will receive such special gifts is plain to hear. The pain of being poor and not being able to look after your child is movingly conveyed. Karen is wonderful in this role. Her anguish leads to a crime, which leads to a miracle, which changes their lives. Amahl is then allowed to accompany the Three Kings on their journey.
This opera contains all the drama and emotion you would expect from this art form and it is completely accessible to everyone. It is sung in English and the singers’ diction is very clear so that any child would be able to follow the story. Humour is a key feature and the music light and interesting with its elements of folk music and middle-eastern themes. The capable orchestra under the direction of Ian Boath is a welcome part of the performance and on stage at all times. It is wonderful to see so many young performers in this production- from the lead to members of the chorus and orchestra.
Amahl and The Night Visitors is billed as a ‘classic’ for kids, a delightful opera for children. The mostly adult audience last night would disagree. It is for all ages particularly as a special outing for Christmas. The Space Theatre is the perfect location for this opera – the intimacy of the space allows the audience to see and hear everything perfectly. Children in particular would love being able to see the details of the set, costumes and facial expressions and the young people in the production.
by Taissa Ceric
Amahl And The Night Visitors continues at Space Theatre at various times until Sat Dec 6.
Book at BASS on 131 241 or bass.net.au. Click here to purchase your tickets.