A cold winter night. A poverty stricken family. Three kings. One visit that transforms them all. If that sounds familiar, stop a minute, because it’s not the Christmas story you’re thinking of.
This is Amahl and the Night Visitors, an opera by Gian Carlo Menotti that made its debut in 1951 as a television special for the Hallmark Hall of Fame. It tells the story of Amahl and his mother, cold and hungry, and their visit by the magi who are on their way to see the newborn Jesus. Menotti wrote the story to capture the nostalgia of his own childhood in Italy, where gifts for children are brought by the Three Kings instead of Santa Claus.
The family-friendly story is one of hope and compassion, and has been a beloved tale since its debut. “I’m just super excited and honored to play such a big role in a wonderful and inspiring story,” says Micahel Karash, who sings the role of Amahl. “Amahl is such a mysterious boy that wants to help and protect his mother, but at the same time he acts as any boy that age. I’m really looking forward to bringing his character to life. The music is absolutely beautiful, too—it’s just such a great opera with amazing music.”
Karash started learning music at age 6 with piano lessons. A year later, he began singing and acting in community theater productions. At 8, he joined the Theatre Under the Stars Academy. In addition to his classes there, he also works with a private coach to further develop his acting, singing, and dancing skills. While Karash has taken part in several musical theater productions, the role of Amahl is a first for him. “It’s totally different from anything I’ve done in the past,” he says. “This is my first opportunity to be a part of a classical opera, and to be a lead character is awesome. I mean, I just saw the very first opera in my life a couple of weeks ago —it was Rigoletto—and now I’m about to be in an opera! How crazy is that?”
Karash says he’s grateful for the opportunity and is loving the music in the show. In addition to helping him stretch as a performer, Amahl has also given him more exposure to the classical repertoire, something he’d only known before in his piano lessons. He’s thoroughly enjoying the challenge.
For all that, it’s personally rewarding, but Karash believes the story will resonate with audiences, too. “It’s perfect for the holiday season because it’s about kindness and gratitude,” he says. “And the ending is so moving that everyone will leave the show crying tears of joy. Unlike most operas, the story is super easy to follow, and it’s sung in English. Most kids have probably not experienced seeing a classical opera, so I think this story with a young boy as the main character that they can relate to is a great way to get introduced to classical music. Hopefully it will inspire kids to see other operas and more theatre in general.”
Runs through Dec. 15 at Opera in the Heights, 1703 Heights Blvd. Tickets start at $24.50. Go to operaintheheights.org for more information.