Boheme Opera NJ returns to its early roots in Chambersburg, Trenton, NJ as it presents a beautiful visual rendition of Gian Carlo Menotti's poignant tale of the poor young disabled boy Amahl. He and his mother struggle to exist, and when three appointed kings - the Magi - stop at their house, their lives are about to change.
The production will feature a talented young cast, accompanied by the Boheme Opera NJ Chamber Orchestra and Chorus. It will be staged by Boheme Opera Artistic Director and Conductor Joseph Pucciatti on the altar of one of Trenton's largest churches, Immaculate Conception Church of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, 540 Chestnut Avenue, in the heart of Chambersburg. It will be the first return of opera to the City of Trenton since 2010.
Menotti's beloved 1951 work is considered to be the first opera composed for television. It's not as if Gian Carlo Menotti sat down one day and Said, "I think I'll invent a new genre today." Yet, with the composition of "Amahl and the Night Visitors", that is essentially what he did. Almost unwittingly, the Italian-born American established a tradition of "television opera" that has continued, in one form or another, to the present day.
The brainchild of NBC General Music Manager Samuel Chotzinoff and Artistic Director Peter Herman Adler, the newly created NBC Opera Theatre had lofty ambitions. Adler dreamed that television opera would "bridge the gap between the mass audience and the opera house" and "develop a new kind of opera." The success of "Amahl" was so great (there were repeat performances, live and taped, for years afterward) that it propelled the Opera Theatre to commission works from a wide range of composers between 1951 and 1964. CBS and other followed, and the phenomenon quickly spread to Europe. Most of these composers took to heart what "Amahl" had taught them: Television opera required small casts, expressive acting, a clearly articulated story, and relatively simple melodic design.
Drawn by the promise of enormous viewership, many composers found they were willing to risk the notion their works might never be staged in exchange not only for the hope of a mass audience but also for the excitement of creating dramas that were emphatic, dramatically fierce, and above all, concise.
Starring in Boheme Opera NJ's production of "Amahl and the Night Visitors" is young soprano Janki Namboodiripad as Amahl. A student in the Pennsbury School District, Janki has appeared on stage in "Beauty and the Beast", "Frozen", "Aladdin", among others, and has sung with Princeton Girl Choir, Pennsbury Honors Choir and Only Girls Aloud Choral Festival.
Singing the role of the Mother is mezzo-soprano Amber Nicole Johnson. A graduate of both Illinois Wesleyan University (Bachelor of Music) and Temple University (Masters of Music), she has sung roles in Elektra, Susannah, Suor Angelica and La Rondine, and with Boheme Opera's chorus ensemble for the past two seasons.
King Balthazar will be sung by bass Martin Hargrove, a busy artist on the stages of Minnesota Opera, Pamiro Opera, Florida Grand Opera, American Opera Projects, and Braunschweig Staatsoper, among others. An active musical theater performer, he has sung Colline in "La Boheme" and Raimondo in "Lucia di Lammermoor" with Boheme Opera NJ.
King Melchior will be sung by bass-baritone Kevin Durkin, who has appeared in major roles with Delaware Valley Opera Co., Wilmington Concert Opera, Opera Fresca and Greater Philadelphia Opera Co.
The comical King Kaspar will be sung by tenor Mathew Tartza, who recently portrayed Monostatos in "The Magic Flute" and Beadle Bamford in "Sweeney Todd". In January 2019, he performed with The Eurasia Festival Russian Opera and Art Song Institute.
Singing the role of The Page is baritone Josef Samargia, a graduate of Florida Southern College (BM in 2017) and Temple University (MM in 2019). He has sung several supporting roles, now making his debut with Boheme Opera NJ.
"Amahl and the Night Visitors" will be followed by a performance of Antonio Vivaldi's well-known "Gloria", featuring the Boheme Opera NJ Chorus and Chamber Orchestra.
Tickets for "Amahl and the Night Visitors"/"Gloria" can be purchased online at Amahl-Trenton.brownpapertickets.com OR by calling the Boheme Opera office at (609) 581-9551 for mailing purchases. Tickets will also be available at the door one hour before performance.
The event is co-presented by Boheme Opera NJ and Our Lady of the Angels Parish.