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Dayton Philharmonic, Dayton Opera present holiday collaboration – Dayton.com

‘Hometown Holiday featuring Amahl and the Night Visitors’ at Schuster Center.

By Russell Florence Jr.

Seasonal favorites and a classic opera written for television comprise the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and Dayton Opera’s presentation of “Hometown Holiday featuring Amahl and the Night Visitors,” slated Dec. 2-3 at the Schuster Center.

Under the direction of DPO associate conductor Patrick Reynolds, the first half of the evening will open with “Christmas Fanfare” and “Christmas Overture” followed by “Coventry Carol,” “Unto Us a Child is Born,” “Carol of the Bells” and traditional carols assembled in the form of a sing-a-long.

Further, Kettering Children’s Choir, under the direction of Christina Smith, will be featured in “Still, Still, Still” and “We’re Goin’ Up to Bethlehem!” Guest vocalist Alaina Saliba, a Lebanese-American soprano and Cleveland-based singing actor, will be featured in “T’was the Night Before Christmas.”

The concert will also include a Community Chorus featuring the choirs of Miami East High School, under the direction of Omar Lozano, and Stivers School for the Arts, under the direction of Paula Powell. There will also be members of the following church choirs participating: St. John’s Lutheran Church, under the direction of Margaret Dill, Kirkmont Presbyterian Church, under the direction of Amy Vaubel, Normandy United Methodist Church, under the direction of Rick Lewis, and Peace Lutheran Church, under the direction of Linda Lally.

After intermission, Dayton Opera will be spotlighted with an all-new production of Gian Carlo Menotti’s charming opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” presented on NBC on Christmas Eve 1951. Based on Hieronymus Bosch’s 1475 oil painting “The Adoration of the Magi,” “Amahl” concerns three mysterious kings journeying to Bethlehem following the birth of Christ. The kings stop for rest at the home of Amahl, a shepherd boy who lives in poverty with his mother. When Amahl offers his own gift to the child, a miracle happens.

“The opera’s message of the miracle that occurs when we choose to give selflessly is the perfect way to begin the holiday season,” said stage director Kathleen Clawson, Dayton Opera artistic director. “I find the music to be very evocative and yet tuneful.”

Clawson’s appreciation for “Amahl” dates back to her youth. She fondly recalls growing up with the heartwarming material on a yearly basis at her church, bolstering her love for opera and storytelling.

“‘Amahl’ was my introduction to opera,” she said. “I grew up in a church with a robust music program that produced ‘Amahl’ every year. My father sang (the role of) Melchior and my mother designed costumes. When I became a professional singer, I performed the role of Mother at Lincoln Center with the Little Orchestra Society of New York. My son, who was 5 years old at the time, was in the audience, and this was his first opera. So my personal connection to the piece runs deep.”

The cast includes Sammy Rudrapati as Amahl, Rebecca Krynski Cox as Amahl’s Mother, Carl Rosenthal as King Kaspar, Darren Drone as King Melchoir, Artega Wright as King Balthazar, Aaron Gouge as The Page, Aaron Exman as The Page’s Apprentice, and Thaliyah Cools-Lartigue and Da’Rius Malone as dancers.

Cox, seen last season in Dayton Opera’s production of “Epic Opera,” will portray Amahl’s Mother for the first time. She’s excited for the opportunity to be included in what many consider a holiday tradition.

“I feel really honored to be a part of something which brings so much joy and holiday magic to people,” said Cox. “There is a lot of really beautiful music in this score. My favorite parts are the ensembles, most of which I am not actually in. The music that the Kings and the chorus of Shepherds sing is so beautiful, and also has so much personality. Menotti was an amazing choral composer.”

In addition to the aforementioned Reynolds leading the DPO, the production team, features choreographer Qarrianne Blayr, associate artistic director of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, costumer Lyn Baudendistel, set designer Inseung Park, lighting designer by John Rensel, props coordinator John Lavarnway, wig/makeup designers Thomas Venditelli and Cass Brake, and the Dayton Opera Chorus under the direction of chorus master Jeffrey Powell.

“Wait until you see Lyn Baudendistel’s gorgeous costumes for the Three Kings,” Clawson noted. “The scenic design is by Inseung Park, who makes his Dayton Opera debut with this scenic design. We are also thrilled to collaborate with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company.”

Both Clawson and Cox believe “Amahl” is the perfect option for opera newcomers as well as anyone searching for an experience centered on a meaningful message.

“I think the ‘first opera’ experience is common with ‘Amahl,’” said Clawson. “It is short, in English, with a beautiful, relatable story. (It is) perfect for young and old alike.” “There are several factors that make ‘Amahl’ a favorite to this day,” echoed Cox. “It is less than an hour and in English, which makes it quite accessible. The story is very touching and also has a lot of humor so it’s a very enjoyable evening. The biggest theme in the opera is giving and acting selflessly without expecting anything in return, a very important message, especially during the holiday season.”

Read the story at dayton.com