Amahl and the Night Visitors from Painted Sky Opera is Beautiful Christmas Message
By: Elizabeth Hurd
On Christmas Eve, 1951, NBC premiered the first opera written for television. It was called Amahl and the Night Visitors and it became a Christmas Eve tradition for 15 years. Gian Carlo Menotti, noted Italian-born American composer, based the opera on The Adoration of the Magi by Hieronymus Bosch. Many families gathered in front of their television sets to view the opera and Amahl’s beautiful story. However, things change and in 1966 NBC decided to update their programming, but the story of the little crippled child and his widowed mother tugged at many heartstrings. Occasionally opera companies would present the opera during the Christmas season and now Painted Sky Opera has taken on this beautiful and simple task in the company of First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City.
The three kings bearing gifts for the Christ Child and following the star have grown tired. They pause to rest at the hovel where Amahl and his mother live. Their gold is tempting to the poor widow and Amahl defends her steadfastly. The kings are very impressed and Amahl is healed. No longer a cripple, he joins the three travelers to meet the baby Jesus in the manger at Bethlehem.
The story, told in the incredibly powerful operatic voices, is beautifully amazing. The cast includes the young but nevertheless energetic voice of Austin Rindler as Amahl. Rindler is also an actor and the skills are combined inspirationally to achieve a grand connection with an eager audience. Catherine McDaniel is Mother, a woman alone without the means to support her child, yet courageous in facing an uncertain future. McDaniel’s voice soars throughout the sanctuary with clarity; her desperation is compelling. Together, Rindler and McDaniel have voices that are uniquely suited to cementing their love.
The three kings are also impressive with three incredible voices in Mark Johnson as Kaspar, Jordan Andrews as Melchior and Kevin Eckard as Balthazar. With their appearance, the gap in fortunes is very apparent, the appalling disparity is seen today and is the bane of every culture. Yet the kings are kind, kingly and understanding. Their song is incredibly strong. Zachary DeVault is the Page, and he comes across as a little snobbish, a very real reaction among those who serve the privileged and royalty. All the voices are excellent and perfectly mesh for this opera.
The orchestra is vibrant although small. Jan McDaniel is on the piano as is Joe Fitzgerald. KaDee Bramlett plays the oboe and Mike Geib is on Bass while Alex McDaniel is percussionist. While a full orchestra would certainly enhance the event, this one certainly succeeds in generating beautiful music and accompaniment.
Molly Johnson is Stage Director, and she clearly understands placement, using the sanctuary to full advantage. Jan McDaniel is an excellent Music Director, and Joe Fitzgerald assists him. Brian Butler designs very authentic looking costumes for the show. The entire crew has a great deal of positive input into the production. Amahl and the Night Visitors is a powerful opera and should be seen especially around the Christmas Season. Painted Sky Opera under Artistic Director Rob Glaubitz and Executive Director Barbara Fox DeMaio have dreams of making this an annual event. It should be, and the story told in the hallowed sanctuary of First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City is quite wonderful.
The main cast of six talented performers is augmented by a strong cast of Shepherds, Shepherdesses and Dancers. Among the dancers are Noah Rindler and Jillian Rindler, possible siblings to the leading singer. MK Mackey, Lily Voth and Ria Shah complete the dancing component gracefully. The vocals of those visiting from the fields where they watch their sheep have a lovely shape. They include the dancers mentioned above as well as Haleigh Adams, Caroline Carter, Riley Cleaver, Jennifer Coffman, Ken Copeland, Katie Crim and Tucker Feix. Also singing are Connor McLaury, Linnea Nelson, Solveig Neseth, Chance Passmore, Taylor Stephans and Laura Wardwall. Among them are the understudies for the principal roles.
Amahl and the Night Visitors only plays for one weekend, so the time is past when they may be seen. It is hoped that they will return for a longer fun next Christmas time, to make the 2020 Season as powerful as 2019. For further information visit www.paintedskyopera.org.