By Abigail J. Stoscher
It was 1951, and Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti had been commissioned by NBC to write a new opera to be broadcast live on Christmas Day. It was on a dreary afternoon in November, while Menotti was still desperately searching for ideas, that he stumbled upon Hieronymus Bosch’s painting “Adoration of the Kings,” and Menotti’s classic opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors”—the first opera to be composed specifically for American television—sprang into being.
A crippled boy, a determined mother, three kind kings, and a new-born baby under a bright star intertwine to form this timeless story that has captivated audiences for many a Christmas. Pivoting on the themes of family, generosity, and miracles, “Amahl and the Night Visitors” has become one of the most popular American operas, beginning with its annual live broadcast from 1951 to 1962, followed by its filmed version that aired from 1963 to 1965, a myriad of performances through the decades, and finally, this year, to Creighton University’s production.
With a cast of six leads, 25 chorus members, and over 30 orchestra members, director M. Michele Phillips’ version of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” will be a show to remember.
Junior Musical Theatre major Natalie Hanson, who plays the title role (despite Menotti’s original desire that Amahl be played exclusively by a boy), expresses her enthusiasm for this show. “It is exciting to see Creighton try something so different than what we typically perform,” Hanson wrote in a note on the company’s website. “And it has been an incredible learning experience for me and everyone involved.”
The other cast members seem equally excited to have had the opportunity to perform in this play. One of the three kings, Sam McKinney, discovered the timelessness of this one-act opera in a new way when he realized that his father, too, had played the same role as a university student. “It has been another thing that my Dad and I have been able to bond over. I am beyond blessed to be a part of this show!” McKinney wrote.
Menotti’s touching yet fun-filled creation that has delighted its viewers for generations is preparing to once again warm its audience’s hearts and urge them to aspire to honesty, generosity, and love.
Performances: Wednesday, January 25th, 2017, at the Hoyt Sherman Place
Director: M. Michele Phillips
Cast: Natalie Hanson, Rachel Schmidt, Nik Whitcomb, Sam McKinney, Danny Carraher, Andreas Guevara, Ensemble
Design Team: Set design by Bill Van Deest, Technical Direction by Mark Krejci, Costume design by Lindsay Pape, Lighting design by Hunter Froelich and Clara Johnson