Most of us know at least part of the Christmas Story. Mary had a baby, who is visited by three wise men, and the baby in the manger becomes a prophet. But Creighton University’s operatic production of “Amahl and the Night Visitors”, performed Wednesday at the Hoyt Sherman Place, showed a different side of the story.
Amahl is a shepherd boy, who walks with a crutch and will soon be out on the street to beg with his mother, a widow. One night, after Amahl sees a beautiful star in the sky, the three wise men stop by his home. After inviting them in and receiving them, Amahl and his mother learn that miracles do come true. After his faith and kindness are rewarded, Amahl sets out with the wise men to Bethlehem, to meet the baby being born in a manger.
But the lessons taught by this hour long opera aren’t just about Christmas stories and Christianity. Rather, they are about the enduring values of kindness, of charity, of family love, and most importantly, a belief in miracles. The spirit and love shown by titular character Amahl (Played incredibly sweetly by junior Natalie Hanson) for his mother is heart-warming, as well as the community spirit set forth in the folksy number “Dance of the Shepherds”.
The costumes were another bright point in the show. The costumes for most of the ensemble were basic for farmers of the time, but the elaborate garb of the kings was truly great costuming. Creighton’s Lindsay Pape should be complimented on making believable kings that lit up the scene. The character of King Kaspar (played expressively by Nik Whitcomb) was particularly resplendent.
The orchestra, 30 strong and playing behind a transparent screen with the guiding star shining on it, was in peak form. An opera requires consistent and accomplished accompaniment, which conductor Stephen Sheftz provided in spades. The flute and piccolo (Paige Carlow) were particularly strong, opening and closing the show on beautiful notes. The audience walked outside of the theatre afterwards to a blanket of new fallen snow, a perfect finish to a Christmas show.
All in all, the show reminds the viewer of a Christmas Eve pageant, albeit one with superb music and vocals. The story might be different than the one seen at the time of the holidays, but the lessons of love, charity, and miracles are one and the same.
Performance: 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