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On Stage

On Stage: 'Amahl And The Night Visitors'

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Although the name Hieronymus Bosch generally conjures up visions more fitting to Halloween than Christmas, it was his work The Adoration of the Magi that inspired the composer Gian Carlo Menotti to create the beloved one-act opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors. Menotti had been commissioned by NBC to make the first-ever opera for television, and it was performed live at Rockefeller Center in New York City on Christmas Eve, 1951.

Despite being commissioned for broadcast, Menotti created the opera as a stage production. He said, “On television, you're lucky if they ever repeat anything… Writing an opera is a big effort and to give it away for one performance is stupid.”

Menotti also wrote the original English libretto, and he had quite strong feelings regarding the character of Amahl in terms of the theatrical practice of casting women in roles for boys. In the production notes for piano/vocal, he wrote “It is the express wish of the composer that the role of Amahl should always be performed by a boy.” 

Amahl and the Night Visitors, the story of one miraculous night when three kings stopped at the humblest of homes, was broadcast live across the U.S., carried by 35 NBC affiliates. The audience was estimated at 5 million people.

Opera Kansas is bringing Amahl and the Night Visitors to the stage for its 30th anniversary production on the Epiphany feast day, Jan. 6, at 3 p.m. at the Catholic Church of the Magdalen.