Erskine Music Department to stage ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors’ Jan. 6-7

Posted on January 2, 2012

The Erskine Department of Music will present two performances of Gian-Carlo Menotti’s Epiphany opera Amahl and the Night Visitors Friday, Jan. 6, and Saturday, Jan. 7. Both performances are set for 8 p.m. in Memorial Hall on the Erskine College campus. Admission is free and the public is welcome.

Menotti is a composer and librettist best known to South Carolina audiences as the founder of the ‘Spoleto’ Festival of Two Worlds, now an annual event in Charleston.

The story is an imaginative account of what might happen if the Wise Men, on their way to visit the Christ Child, spent a night among impoverished nomads. How would they be received? “The show concludes with a Christmas miracle of its own,” Associate Professor of Music Dr. Brooks Kuykendall said.

The production is a project of Erskine’s Opera Workshop directed by Prof. Thomas J. Ellis. The six characters are played by Erskine students. “Menotti writes very well for the voice. The music has its challenges, but it is rewarding for the singers and tuneful for the audience,” Ellis said.

Senior Aimee Dumouchel leads the cast as the mother of Amahl, a poor but mischievous crippled boy played by sophomore Hannah Timms.

Dumouchel’s character is sorely tempted when mysterious visitors leave their treasures unguarded as they spend the night in her hut. In the climax of the opera, she is caught when she steals some of the gold to provide for Amahl, who tries his hardest to defend her.

The cast is rounded out by the three kings (played by juniors Peter Kim and Tillary Blackman and sophomore Jeron Crawford) and their page (played by Erskine Seminary student Camden Simon), plus a small chorus and a dancer.

Amahl and the Night Visitors was written for television, and premiered as a live broadcast on NBC on Christmas Eve 1951.

“Menotti grew up in Italy when opera was still the entertainment of the masses, and he wanted the same to be true in his new homeland, the United States,” Kuykendall said. “His television opera, Amahl and the NIght Visitors, is a great example of that. Even when staged, it still evokes 1950s TV in a nostalgic, heartwarming way. You might want to bring a Kleenex.”

“Performing Amahl in January gets it out of the December overload of Christmas music, so that we can appreciate it in its own right,” Ellis added.

For more information, call 864-379-6695.