Before making it all the way to Bethlehem, the three kings (of orient) made a stop near Bethlehem to rest at the house of a young disabled boy, Amahl, and his mother.
Or at least that’s the premise behind “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” which will be performed by the University of North Alabama’s opera program when the opera opens tonight.
“Amahl and the Night Visitors,” composed by Gian Carlo Menotti, was the first opera written for television in the United States when it was commissioned by NBC. It was performed and broadcast live on Christmas Eve 1951.
The opera is written in English and only consists of one act, making it accessible even to children and people completely unfamiliar with opera.
“Anyone who hasn’t been to an opera before, you can bring the kids and they will stay attentive for the whole time,” said music director Terrance Brown. “And they will leave being enriched culturally from this medium that doesn’t get exposed so much in this area.”
Stage director Tiffany Bostic-Brown said providing accessible operas such as “Amahl and the Night Visitors” is one of their goals.
“It’s not out in the open as much as it should be,” Bostic-Brown said. “It shows people how much they can enjoy it, and it’s worth just as much as going to see a movie and it’s enriching culture.”
The opera also is appropriate to the holiday season, taking place as the Magi travel to see the newborn baby Jesus.
“This is sort of an Advent season opera, it gets you into the mood,” Brown said. “But the interesting part of this opera is not so much of Amahl being able to walk, but the food and fruits and gifts that the shepherds bring.”
Amahl’s mother asks the shepherds to bring food and gifts for the kings because they are so poor they don’t have anything to offer the kings as gifts. But the kings, being rich, don’t need the food, it is left for Amahl and his mother to use.
“You can see God providing when you need it most and finding ways to deliver things,” Brown said. “People ask for blessings and you’re never sure when they’ll come but they come in little ways that you’d never think of.”
Heather Simmers, a senior at UNA studying vocal performance, said it’s interesting for her trying to play a crippled boy in “Amahl.”
“He starts out trying to be normal, just a normal kid,” Simmers said. “And then the kings come, and he has the miracle where he can walk and it changes his life.”
But despite the Christian message, Brown said the opera still has something for everyone.
“Menotti wrote it in a way, to where if people have different faith backgrounds, if people may be Christian or may not be Christian, it’s still an accessible for anybody no matter what their religious beliefs are,” Brown said.
Bobby Bozeman can be reached at
256-740-5722 or bobby.bozeman@
Want to go?
What: “Amahl and the Night Visitors”
Where: Wesleyan Hall Auditorium on the University of North Alabama campus, Florence
When: 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
Cost: $10, adults; $5, students
Details: una.edu/music-theatre or 256-765-5122