Playlist: Compact Discoveries
Compiled By: Aron Levy
Compact Discoveries (Series)
Produced by Fred Flaxman
Most recent piece in this series:
The opera was commissioned by NBC, the National Broadcasting Company, in the United States, and was first televised by that network on Christmas Eve in 1951.
Between 1951 and 1966 Amahl and the Night Visitors was shown each year on NBC during the Christmas season. In 1963 it was remade by NBC with an all-new cast, and this production was shown for the next three years. Then in 1978, a new production was filmed by NBC, partly on location in the Holy Land. Meanwhile the BBC commissioned two productions of its own, the first broadcast in December 1955; the second, four years later. The composer himself directed another filmed version in 1996.
In 2008 Naxos issued a new audio recording with members of the Nashville and Chicago Symphony choruses, along with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. Ike Hawkersmith sings the role of Amahl and Kirsten Gunlogson, his mother.
The libretto for Amahl and the Night Visitors was also written by Gian Carlo Menotti. The story, which was inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s painting, The Adoration of the Magi, takes place near Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus.
Amahl is a disabled boy who has a problem with telling the truth. Because of this his mother does not believe him when he tells her of an amazing star that can be seen in the night sky. Later, there is a knock at the door and his mother tells him to see who it is. He is amazed when he sees three splendidly dressed kings. And, of course, his mother has a hard time believing him when he tells her what he has seen. The kings tell Amahl and his mother that they are on a long journey to give gifts to a very special child, and that they would like to rest.
Later that night, when the kings are sleeping, Amahl’s mother attempts to steal some of the gold the kings brought with them, but her theft is thwarted by the Page.
Amahl puts forth a spirited defense of his mother, and the kings realize that she was trying to steal out of fear that her crippled child would otherwise have to become a beggar. So one of the kings says she may keep his gold, as the Holy Child doesn’t need earthly power or wealth to build his kingdom.
The mother wishes to send a gift to Jesus as well, but has nothing to give. Neither does Amahl, except for his crutch. As he offers it, his leg is suddenly no longer lame, and he joyfully goes with the kings to see the child and give thanks for being healed.