Monterey Symphony, Nov 21, 2013

Monterey Symphony’s Amahl and the Night Visitors.


By Scott MacClelland

On the way to Sherwood Hall to join school kids bused in Thursday morning for Amahl and the Night Visitors, I was lucky to see Claes Oldenburg’s big yellow cowboy hats, freshly restored and reinstalled in the adjacent park. Overnight rain had freshened the air, the sun had just broken through the clouds, and excitement among the queues of youngsters entering the auditorium was palpable.

Gian Carlo Menotti’s one-act opera was designed for children, yet adults can easily get just as enchanted by the composer’s clever libretto (in English) and magical music. And if I thought today’s elementary school kids are blasé or cynical, that fleeting anxiety quickly evaporated. The nearly full house, the second of two that morning, was attentive and quiet during the 50-minute performance by the Monterey Symphony and the cast on stage, laughed and applauded in the right places, and set the big seating structure into serious oscillations as their feet stamped out approval at the conclusion.

Monterey-area producer/director Walt deFaria designed and staged the piece, with contributions by Nicole Anne Bryant-Stevens, Dennis Randolph and others. The cast featured Ethan Yan as Amahl, Angelique Zuluaga as his mother, with tenor J. Raymond Myers, baritone Peter Tuff and bass James Grainger as the three kings. Cheryl Anderson’s Cabrillo choristers, as the neighbors, sang beautifully. Whitney Hollman-Wynn choreographed the dance sequence.

Max Bragado conducted the orchestra which was spread out left to right on the floor in front of the stage. Supertitles were projected in support of young Mr. Yan’s sometimes small projection. The three kings, as with the mother, had no difficulty filling the hall.

It was not hard to imagine that some of the youngsters in the audience could relate to Amahl’s handicap and privations, and to take inspiration from his determination and ultimate triumph. As fables relating to the nativity of Christ go, this one is especially rich and layered. It was a treat to hear and see it in the presence of an audience of several hundred genuinely tuned in youngsters.