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There's No Place like the Opera for the Holidays
Evan Wildstein, Manager of Education and Adult Learning Programs, OPERA America
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EducationLink12/15/2008

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It's the time of year when thoughts are focused on humanity, kindness, giving, family and — of course — music! An essential part of the holidays, music can be heard almost everywhere. While everyone has their holiday music of choice, for opera listeners that choice is often Amahl and the Night Visitors.

Each year, large and small productions of Amahl are presented in venues from churches to community colleges to opera houses. This holiday work provides the opportunity to produce a piece that is warm and palatable, and it gives producing organizations the chance to make a creative non-traditional production choice. Fort Worth Opera developed an innovative partnership with a small theater in a largely Hispanic area, in which Spanish surtitles were used to assist in the audience's understanding of the work. Each performance was sold out and was attended by entire families. Fort Worth Opera General Director Darren K. Woods says, "What I love about Amahl, if I think like a kid, is seeing a kid perform the lead role. I have no doubt that there are youngsters in the audience who have an 'ah-ha' moment when they see that young boy singing!"

The short, one-act opera was originally created for television and aired in 1951. Amahl was first performed on stage in 1952. In its 50-plus years, the opera has continually touched people with a story of compassion and hope. "I believe," says Townsend Opera Players Executive Director Matthew Buckman, "Amahl emphasizes the importance of the story of opera as an art form. It is my belief that as we continue to navigate our evolving culture, the story element of opera, along with the visual possibilities, will be increasingly important to the success of the art form."

In relation to the holidays, the art form is of course larger than one opera, and companies across North America are bringing audiences into their houses and going directly into their communities with a variety of interesting productions. Opera Theater of Pittsburgh and The Dallas Opera are both producing festive versions of Die Fledermaus. Others are reaching audiences with community holiday concerts, invoking the holiday spirit and showing new and old audiences alike the capabilities of the art form. Tim Kennedy, Pensacola Opera's education director, notes, "Every time we take a singer into the community, we show the community that opera singers are just great singers that can perform numerous styles of music. Also, music is such a large part of the holiday season and there's lots of great music to be shared, so we like to be a part of musical experiences in Pensacola!"

The examples shared in this article are simply samples of holiday work being done by companies around the U.S. To learn if your local opera company is producing a seasonal work, we encourage you to visit their Web site or give them a call. If you are unaware of whether there is an opera company or producing organization in your area, visit OPERA America's Membership Directory.

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