When & Where: Available Saturday, December 12, 2020 at 7:30pm then on demand until the end of the season | Streamed from a recorded performance at Chan Centre for the Performing Arts
Music Director Leslie Dala Director Sarah Jane Pelzer Set & Costume Designer Patrick Rizzotti Lighting Designer Jeremy Baxter Stage Manager Marijka Asbeek Brusse Aassistant Stage Manager Michelle Harrison
Amahl Andreas Dala Amahl's Mother Stephanie Tritchew King Kaspar Sergio Augusto King Melchior Jason Cook King Balthazar Michael Mackinnon Page Henry Chen
Reviewer John Jane
Amahl and the Night Visitors is a single-act opera that was originally commissioned for television at a time when not every home had a television set and those that did, could only watch it in ‘black and white.’ It’s probably fair to assume therefore that it would work well streamed online from a live stage performance.
The opera offers a rich score by Italian-American composer and librettist Gian Carlo Menotti. Menotti takes a fictional story built around the legend of the Magi on route to Bethlehem and centres it on a young, disabled boy living in dire poverty with his widowed mother. The premise involves the three kings: Kaspar, Melchior and Balthazar stopping on their way at the home of Amahl and his mother for rest and sustenance.
Amahl is played by 14-year-old Andreas Dala, the son of musical director Leslie Dala. When the opera opens, we see Amahl’s mother (Stephanie Tritchew) at the end of her tether, as she anticipates having to go out and beg on the streets to survive. She despairs of her son’s ability to connect with the real world and cannot bring herself to believe anything he says as Amahl bursts into Mother, Mother, come with me.
Tenor Sergio Augusto (Kaspar), baritones Jason Cook (Melchior) and Michael Mackinnon (Balthazar) take over the stage with from far away we come. They confuse and confound Amahl and his mother as they describe wonders of the child king they are journeying to see. Augusto justifies in Kaspar’s aria This is my box why he never goes anywhere without his box of magical stones.
When the villagers arrive to celebrate the visit of the Magi, the entire stage turns into jubilation as the cast and chorus join in the dance sequence that spectacularly combines folk and classical choreography to Dance of the Shepherds.
Andreas Dala was clearly able to put his character at the centre of the production with a capable portrayal of the optimistic young shepherd without sheep. Soprano Stephanie Tritchew provides vocal clarity and character throughout her performance, particularly in her poignant aria All that Gold.
Patrick Rizzotti’s curving cedar set allows for as much free movement as feasible. His clothing is likely indicative of first century Judea and draws parallels between privilege and poverty. Jeremy Baxter’s shadowy lighting suggests that everything took place outdoors at night.
Prior to the
action on stage, director Sarah Jane Pelzer offers an insightful look
at the challenges of directing a fairly large cast while maintaining
appropriate physical distancing. She certainly brought a sense of
occasion to this excellent Vancouver Opera production.
© 2020 John Jane