published Friday, November 18th, 2011

'Amahl' visits Chattanooga tonight

IF YOU GO

What: "Amahl and the Night Visitors."

When: 8 p.m. today.

Where: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.

Admission: $12-$39.

Phone: 267-8583.

Website: www.chattanoogasymphony.org.

In 1951, NBC commissioned Gian Carlo Menotti to write an opera specifically composed for television.

"Amahl and the Night Visitors," inspired by Hieronymus Bosch's painting "The Adoration of the Magi," was the result.

Set in Bethlehem, soon after the birth of Christ, "Amahl" tells the story of a crippled child who lives in a hut with his mother.

When the three kings come, bearing gifts for the Child, Amahl's mother steals some of their gold, saying she does not want her own child to be destitute and a beggar.

She eventually returns the gold, and Amahl offers to give his walking stick as a gift. Upon doing so, he learns he actually possesses the ability to walk. Amahl travels with the three kings to visit the newborn.

"There are moments in particular that are universally human," said Robert Bernhardt, music director emeritus of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera. "Mostly they involve the relationship between a young boy and his mother, about how a child sees the world. I think it becomes more and more significant as I get older."

The CSO, in collaboration with the Chattanooga Theatre Centre and Chattanooga Ballet, presents "Amahl and the Night Visitors" tonight at the Tivoli Theatre.

Directed by George Quick of the Theatre Centre, choreographed by Chattanooga Ballet's Bob Willie and conducted by Bernhardt, the production is a true collaboration among several of the city's leading arts organizations.

Most of the performers, including Monte Coulter IV, Darrin Hassevoort and Rosella Ewing are local. Ron Ulen, formerly of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, is returning from his new home in Texas for the show.

Since 2010, "Amahl" has become a new holiday tradition in Chattanooga, and while the story centers on the birth of Christ, Bernhardt said the production is not Christian exclusive.

"No matter how you approach it, whether it's Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, most of our thoughts are on our youngest generation, the world we have for them now and what we're leaving."

"Amahl" is the only opera that will be staged this season in Chattanooga. Budget cuts have prevented multiple full-scale productions from taking place, but, Bernhardt said, "we are holding out hope that we will be able to regenerate an opera season."

Though the production is a one-act, he said the process of conducting and directing it is hardly different from staging a full-scale opera.

"The scale is slightly held back," Bernhardt said, "but I think most conductors would tell you that conducting opera is the most complicated and challenging of all of the stuff that we conduct, which makes it the most rewarding thing we do."

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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