It has been 60 years since an Adelaide audience has experienced the heart-warming Christmas story of Amahl and the Night Visitors. This year, a passionate and talented team of Adelaide-based artists have pooled their talents to present four shows at the Space Theatre between 4 November – 6 November 2014.
Originally written for a screen audience by Gian Carlo Menotti in 1951, the opera has been reproduced for the stage and centres around the experience of a poor boy (Amahl) and his mother, at the time of Jesus’ birth. Co-Producer Emma Knights explains the plot and themes are very child-centric, making it a wonderful and digestible experience for first-time opera-goers. “Amahl is a ltitle bit cheeky and tells a lot of porky pies. He tells his mother about a big bright star, but she doesn’t believe him. Then there’s a knock at the door and the Three Kings arrive, but she doesn’t believe him until they come in the room. The show has that childhood innocence and playfulness to it which I really like”.
Knights is a fan of Will Ferrell’s Elf, The Polar Express and A Miracle on 34th Street and believes this story has the same comedic tones and moral messages as these Christmas classics. “It’s about the love between a parent and a child, but it is also about how sometimes when you give something to someone else, that can be a great gift to yourself.”
Despite this opera being the most frequently produced musicals globally, Knights admits she was not familiar with Amahl before South Australian based opera singer Karen Lettice approached her with the idea. Knights explains “this opera is something that she [Lettice] grew up with. She has two opera singing parents and they sang this opera to her all the time as a child. She fell in love with it at an early age. I was accompanying some of her students when asked me to consider Amahl as a co-production.”
Like so many successful arts duos, Lettice and Knights have contrasting strengths to balance against one another. Knights explains that “Karen is bringing the passion to it. She loves this particular opera and the art is very close to her heart. Based on the way she is approaching this whole production, it is clear there’s a lot of love around it. Whereas I’m coing a bit more from the production aspect and have brought a lot of the pieces together in a practical and planning sense. Karen has the heart and I have the brains, although it’s not like I don’t have heart and she doesn’t have intellect!”
Together, Lettice and Knights have quite deliberately pooled a formidable team of local talent. Everyone from set and costume designers, to the singers and orchestra are South Australian based artists. “My first professional gig was in QLD, but I love Adelaide. I was born and raised here and there is just something about Adelaide that you don’t get anywhere else. I had worked with so many wonderful people and have gone to a lot of productions over the years. Sometimes I would see shows and think, yeah but that person is just as good as someone I know from Adelaide! It was important to show people the talent we have here, but also to offer an opportunity for people to make money from the art form in Adelaide”.
Amahl and the Night Visitors is a one set, one act opera, consisting of a cast of players (including Lettice as Amahl’s mother) and an eight-piece orchestra. A selection of budding singers including rising stars Finn Green and Aidan Hutson-Hill and a talented singing and dancing cast will warm your heart and remind you what the true Christmas spirit is all about. It’s an opportunity to educate and inspire audiences of all ages on the beauty of opera and live music production.
Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 4 December – 6 December
Times: Nightly at 7:00pm, plus a Saturday matinee at 2:00pm
Duration: 50 minutes
Tickets: Children $36, Concession $48, Adult $55. Group discounts may apply
Bookings: Book online through BASS