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Menotti: Amahl & the Night Visitors, My Christmas / Willis

Release Date: 11/18/2008 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8669019   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Gian Carlo Menotti
Performer:  Dean AnthonyIke HawkersmithBart LeFanTodd Thomas,   ... 
Conductor:  Alastair WillisGeorge Mabry
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Chorus membersNashville Symphony ChorusNashville Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 2 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

It's remarkable that this classic Christmas opera hasn't received more recordings, but one reason may be its relatively short length (45-50 minutes) and the fact that it's more about the story and its quickly-paced dramatic aspects than the singing--Menotti focuses primarily on dialogue and less on stand-alone arias (this was written for television after all!). But the ensemble nature of the score, the sensitively wrought interaction of the sympathetically drawn characters, the humor, and the poignant relationship of the poor, crippled shepherd boy and his mother, are what give the work its charm and make it so affecting. Not that there aren't many clever and catchy, very pleasing tunes and a couple of fine ensemble numbers and choruses. Read more Menotti's music is just enough and just the right blend of old and newer style.

Although the original 1951 television production conducted by Thomas Schippers (RCA) retains a dramatic edge over this excellent and very welcome newcomer--not to mention a vocally more solid cast--conductor Alastair Willis and his colleagues present a fully satisfying performance that has the advantage of first-rate, modern sound.

My only criticisms concern the acting--there could be a little more use of dramatic pauses and inflective touches, especially at the shocking moment when Amahl discovers he can walk, or in the scene when the Page discovers the Mother and the gold, which here lack the full measure of dramatic force exemplified by Schippers' cast. However, we mostly enjoy the easy interaction of the characters, such as the very effective, poignant moment when the Mother discovers the Kings at the door, or in Amahl's engaging banter with the Kings. The chorus is also fine, as is the orchestra, whose particular colors and instrumental balances are so important to the proper effect of the performance. Ultimately this is a production of this classic work that will hold up to many years of repeat hearings--and it's a pleasure to have it in a recording that obviously relishes and successfully captures the ambience of its chamber-opera character.

--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian Carlo Menotti
Performer:  Dean Anthony (Tenor), Ike Hawkersmith (Boy Soprano), Bart LeFan (Baritone),
Todd Thomas (Baritone), Kirsten Gunlogson (Mezzo Soprano), Kevin Short (Bass Baritone)
Conductor:  Alastair Willis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Chorus members,  Nashville Symphony Chorus,  Nashville Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951; USA 
My Christmas by Gian Carlo Menotti
Conductor:  George Mabry
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nashville Symphony Chorus,  Nashville Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 

Featured Sound Samples

Amahl and the Night Visitors: Introduction
Amahl and the Night Visitors: "Olives and quinces"

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