Amahl & The Night Visitors takes the stage this Holiday season

December 2, 2015

Gian Carlo Menotti’s classic Holiday opera Amahl & The Night Visitors takes the stage with talented soloists, the Western Colorado Chorale and the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra.

The Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra presents Menotti’s enduring Holiday opera, Amahl & The Night Visitors in two performances at the Avalon Theatre on Saturday, December 12th at 7:30pm and Sunday, December 13th at 3pm. The 45 minute family-friendly production will be performed in English with a live orchestra and will feature two young local girls in the roles of Amahl, nationally and internationally known soloists rounding out the rest of the cast and the Western Colorado Chorale as the chorus. The second half of each performance will feature the Western Colorado Chorale performing classic Christmas carols.

Amahl & The Night Visitors is an enduring hit that has been popular since its premiere in 1951. This family-friendly opera has enjoyed thousands of performances and has been touted as an opera that remains meaningful because it’s both concisely written and has touches of whimsy with a message for the season that reaches home for the audience.

Commissioned by NBC as the first opera written for television, Amahl & The Night Visitors debuted on December 24, 1951 becoming the first network television Christmas special to become an annual tradition. Menotti drew inspiration for the opera from Hieronymus Bosch’s The Adoration of the Magi, which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and from his childhood in Italy where gifts were brought at Christmas by the Three Kings instead of Santa Claus.

Set near Bethlehem just after the birth of Christ, Amahl & The Night Visitors tells the story of Amahl, a poor shepherd boy who lives with his mother in extreme poverty. Despite a disability, he is normal and inquisitive and is known (to his mother, at least) as a teller of tall tales.  His most recent story is about a star with a tail that moves across the sky like a chariot on fire. By the light of the magic star, three splendid strangers (the Three Kings) knock on the door and ask to rest in their tiny home. Amahl is thrilled and fascinated by everything about them. While they are visiting, his mother’s desperation to provide for her son drives her to steal from the Kings. However, instead of punishing her, they help the boy and his mother. The visitors describe the miraculous child they are seeking and both Amahl and his mother are moved to give reverence to the child as well. Their humble faith creates a miracle.

Soprano Christie Conover returns to the Grand Valley to perform the role of the Mother after winning the Grand Junction Symphony’s Young Artist Competition two years ago and performing as a guest artist with the GJSO in April of 2015. Conover has  been described as a “jewel” with a “lovely timbre, perfect trill, and soaring top,”. Her voice, rich and warm, is partnered by a personal grace both on and off the stage. Her sensitive portrayal of characters such as Liù (Turandot), Juliette (Romeo et Juliette) and Micaëla (Carmen) have garnered her critical acclaim, as has her fiery portrayal of Musetta (La bohème) and comedic rendition of Clorinda (La Cenerentola).

Ava Paul will be performing the title role of Amahl on Saturday, December 12th. Ava is a 12 year old 7th grader at Redlands Middle School who enjoys piano, percussion, and singing. Ava is thrilled to be performing with the GJSO.

Cadence Neste will be performing as Amahl during the Sunday, December 13th matinee. Cadence is 12 years old and in the seventh grade at Holy Family Catholic School. She has been part of several local theatre productions. Her most notable credits include Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden, Young Cossette in Les Miserables and the Sandman in the Opera Hansel and Gretel. Cadence also enjoys dance, plays the piano and flute, and is on the middle school volleyball and basketball teams.

Graham Anduri will be performing the role of King Melchior. Dr. Anduri is an ambitious performer, director, and teacher joining the music faculty at CMU this fall. Dr. Anduri is passionate about utilizing music as a vehicle for improving the world, and believes that singing is an important medium through which to create and foster bonds between people and cultures. To those ends, he recently organized and completed a tour of Romanian churches, schools, orphanages, and prisons with the Missions of Mobile Chamber Choir from the University of Mobile, AL.

Antoine Hodge, Bass‐baritone, performing the role of King Balthazar is quickly gaining widespread attention across the country for his versatility, commanding stage presence, and strong bass voice. Praised by Opera News as a “dramaticaly compelling” artist with a “sonorous and vocally secure” instrument, the 2015‐2016 season will bring more company premieres and operatic role debuts, Including Ferrando in Il Trovatore with Winter Opera St Louis, Zaccaria in Verdi’s Nabucco with the Center for Jewish History in NYC, and bass soloist in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with Litha Symphony Orchestra.

Joshua Wheeker, tenor, will be performing as King Kaspar and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, where he had performed in several productions. He was a Cincinnati Metropolitan Opera District Winner in 2013. He participates as a returning apprentice with Kentucky Opera. A finalist in several nationally known vocal competitions, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in opera.

Joel Brown, tenor and CMU student, will be performing as the Page. Brown, usually working behind the scenes as a part of the Grand Junction Symphony’s production crew, makes his premiere with the GJSO. Brown is in his junior year as a vocal music education and music performance major at Colorado Mesa University. A Grand Junction resident since seventh grade and a graduate of Central High School, Joel has been in dozens of performances around the Valley from middle school to the collegiate level. He hopes to continue with his education and one day teach at a university.

The Western Colorado Chorale under the direction of Dr. Monte Atkinson will be doing double duty as not only the chorus during Amahl & The Night Visitors but also as the featured ensemble on a second half of classic Christmas carols including The First Nowell, Carol of the Bells, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and Jingle Bells among others.

Tickets for Amahl & The Night Visitors range from $25-$45 for adults and only $5 for students and children. Tickets may be purchased online at GJSO.org, by calling 970-243-6787 or visiting the Grand Junction Symphony office at 414 Main Street, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. Tickets are also available at the Avalon Theatre box office one hour prior to each performance.

The Grand Junction Symphony would like to thank Rocky Mountain Orthopaedic Associates, Dr. Jeffrey Nakano and Columbine Caregivers for sponsoring this concert weekend and for their continued support of the GJSO.

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