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Amahl and the Night Visitors...

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Amahl and the Night Visitors...#1
Posted: 12/24/07 at 5:48pm
I absolutely adore this opera, and have ever since I was about eight or nine years old. My dad always played the original recording of it for us every year at Christmas.

Imagine, an opera written for television! 55 minutes long (allowing for five minutes of commercials, and station announcements) Gian Carlo Menotti was so brilliant, so young and so talented. He wrote AND staged it. His partner Thomas Shippers conducted it.

Commissioned by NBC and sponsored by Hallmark. In fact, this was THE FIRST "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation.

The strings playing in the opening moments always bring tears to my eyes. I think it's some of the most beautiful music ever written.

It was so popular its first year (1951) that they continued to perform it "live" for broadcast on Christmas Eve for many years to come. With most of the cast intact. The original Amahl (Chet Allen) only did the first year. Then his voice changed. He had a very troubled sad and short life, I'm sorry to report.

BUT... a brand new DVD of the 1955 live broadcast has just been released! I watched it today and cried through the whole damn thing. The Amahl in this production (Bill McIver) took over right after Chet, and played it for the next four consecutive Christmases. This was his last time "on air" as Amahl, and he's wonderful.

And Rosemary Kuhlmann as the Mother has the voice of an angel. To think that she was only in her 20s when she played this role! Her control and phrasing as a singer are perfection. (What SHE could have done with the Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd!!)

Here is a clip of Rosemary and Bill from the live telecast. (Yes, it's a Kinescope, so the quality is "okay" but the content is priceless!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_03iA_QvfWw

And for those of you, like me, who have been hoping for a decent non-bootleg DVD of "Amahl" to be released, here is a link to get it. It includes a very recent (and lengthy) interview with Rosemary Kuhlmann, shot in July of this year from her home in Rhode Island... She looks and sounds GREAT for someone who first created and sang this role 56 Christmas Eves ago.
Amazon link
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re: Amahl and the Night Visitors...#2
Posted: 12/24/07 at 5:53pm
I love love love this piece! I did it in high school. gorgeous.
Broadway Bound2
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re: Amahl and the Night Visitors...#2
Posted: 12/24/07 at 5:55pm
I own a copy of it. It is the 1979 video version with Theresa Stratus as the Mother and Robert Sapolsky as Amahl. I love this so much.
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re: Amahl and the Night Visitors...#3
Posted: 12/24/07 at 5:56pm
I also performed in it (a few years after High School) and still have fond memories of the piece.
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re: Amahl and the Night Visitors...#4
Posted: 12/24/07 at 6:01pm
Rosemary and Chet Allen (the original Amahl from the 1951 broadcast):

re: Amahl and the Night Visitors...
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re: Amahl and the Night Visitors...#5
Posted: 12/24/07 at 6:03pm
Actually, Broadway Bound2, this is the original Menotti staging with almost all of the original cast members, from the 1955 airing on NBC. It's a Kinescope of the live performance.

The TV version you have is different... and much later.

EDIT: It's the first time it's been available "legally."

There are bootlegs floating around of earlier airings (also Kinescopes, and very bad quality save for one).

This is a legit release, with nice extras!
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Updated On: 12/24/07 at 06:03 PM
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re: Amahl and the Night Visitors...#6
Posted: 12/24/07 at 6:24pm
Beautiful opera - definitely a Christmas tradition of mine. We used to see it at Lincoln Center when I was little, and then the music students performed it every year when I was in college.

I definitely have to get this DVD. This was one of the first exposures to opera re: Amahl and the Night Visitors... And this is such a talented cast.
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re: Amahl and the Night Visitors...#7
Posted: 12/24/07 at 6:52pm
I heard the original that aired in 1955 was accidently recorded over or lost, but just recently I saw the entire production on YouTube.
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re: Amahl and the Night Visitors...#8
Posted: 12/24/07 at 7:30pm
Jeez, you're right BroadwayBound2---The entire original 1951 broadcast (with Chet Allen) is on YouTube!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JjDk8TjzHU

I knew it wasn't destroyed, even though it had been thought so for many years. They found a Kinescope of it around a decade ago.

But this copy looks better than any I've seen out there!

For those of you with 55 minutes to spare (plus Gian Carlo Menotti's own introduction of the premiere performance), you have a wonderful gift awaiting tonight.
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re: Amahl and the Night Visitors...#9
Posted: 12/24/07 at 7:35pm
A holiday tradition for me since I was quite young, and one of my first exposures to opera. Just recently saw it again two weeks ago at New York Philharmonic, in a production that Menotti designed himself in the early eighties. Pure joy.
"You travel alone because other people are only there to remind you how much that hook hurts that we all bit down on. Wait for that one day we can bite free and get back out there in space where we belong, sail back over water, over skies, into space, the hook finally out of our mouths and we wander back out there in space spawning to other planets never to return hurrah to earth and we'll look back and can't even see these lives here anymore. Only the taste of blood to remind us we ever existed. The earth is small. We're gone. We're dead. We're safe." -John Guare, Landscape of the Body
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re: Amahl and the Night Visitors...#10
Posted: 12/24/07 at 7:37pm
If it was erased I think they could contact that person who put it on Youtube to get it. Apparently it is out there.
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re: Amahl and the Night Visitors...#11
Posted: 12/24/07 at 11:22pm
Just saw it at Lincoln Center within the past couple weeks, Little Orchestra company. They had a fantastic young boy singing Amahl and a great cast and orchestra.

I have also loved this little opera since childhood, we would watch it on TV every year long ago.
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re: Amahl and the Night Visitors...#12
Posted: 12/25/07 at 12:13am
"Goodnight my good kings
Goodnight and farewell
The night winds foretell
The day will be bright."

Sang parts of it in my high school choir. Loved it. Listened to our recording this morning, in fact.
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