Opera Review: Amahl And The Night Visitors

Amahl and the Night Visitors is a heartfelt operatic experience for the entire family, playing at the intimate Space Theatre until 6 December 2014.

Opera ReviewIt’s a playful, pitch-perfect performance of world-class proportions; Amahl and the Night Visitors is a heartfelt operatic experience for the entire family, playing at the intimate Space Theatre until 6 December 2014.

This timeless tale was written by Gian Carlo Menotti in 1951 and has been recreated today by Adelaide’s own Co-Producers Karen Lettice and Emma Knights, under the direction of Andrew McKenzie. Triumphantly, the team has demonstrated that their all-Adelaide cast and crew are equal to the world’s best.

The story line follows the mischievous and at times dishonest Amahl (played by Aidan Hutson-Hill on opening night) in a “boy who cried wolf” scenario. it’s not until three kings cross the threshold of their home that his mother (Lettice) accepts his tales of a bright star and royal visitors seeking rest. From here, we explore the themes of love, charity, celebration, forgiveness and community that comes with the territory in any Christmas time “warm fuzzy”. There’s dancing, feasting and even a siesta by King Kaspar, as you’d expect from your own odd-uncle after the family Christmas feast!

The singing is nigh-on flawless, led by globally seasoned Adelaide performers including Lettice and the trio of tenors Branko Lovrinov (King Kaspar), Andrew Turner (King Malchior) and veteran Keith Hampton (King Balthazar). Special mention must go to Aidan Hutson-Hill, whose angelic tones and exceptional range were showcased in the title role, but will be shared by Finnegan Green throughout the season.

Led by Conductor Ian Boath, the six-piece orchestra gently flows underneath the dialogue. The opera was written for a larger ensemble, but it’d be hard to imagine how any more instruments would not be overpowering. The composition is effective and the instrumentalists are on display at house right.

Sure the artwork, set and costume design are understated and simplistic (by Simone Lettice, Damon Hill and Olivia Freear respectively), but that’s the point. The messages of generosity, love and forgiveness do not then play second-fiddle to any undue visual distractions. The predominant grey, oatmeal, cream and brown allows the sequinned red green and gold of the Kings a point of difference.

This one-act production was popular with my whole family. My eight-year old nephew liked the masculine kings and identified with the cheekiness of Amahl. My sister cried at the mother-son bond, particularly when the string section worked their magic. And my prancing ten-year old daughter joyfully named each technical step made by the dancers. Well done to Choreographer Vanessa Redmond, who has blended classical ballet with the energy of folk dancing like that of MGM’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and to the dancers Thomas Phillips, Catherine Van Wijk and Ali Walsh for brining this to life. Neither child had been to the opera before tonight, but they conversed in song rather than speech all the way home. I’d say that makes Amahl and the Night Visitors a hit with the target child audience!

Reviewed by Bree Downs-Woolley
twitter @breedw

Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Theatre
Season: 4 December – 6 December 2014
Tickets: Children $36.00; Concession $48.00; Adults $55.00
Bookings: via BASS Online or phone 131 246

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