Amahl and the Night Visitors
- Bruce Archibald
Opera for television in one act by Gian Carlo Menotti to his own libretto; NBC, New York, 24 December 1951.
The stage is in two parts. One is the stark interior of a shepherd’s hut; surrounding it is the exterior showing distant hills, a road winding offstage to the left and reappearing among the hills, and a starry sky with the star of Bethlehem shining brightly. After a very short prelude of soft, tender music Amahl (boy soprano, about 12 years old), who is crippled, is seen and heard (oboe) playing his shepherd’s pipe. It is a cheerful C major tune, totally diatonic, over a drone C–G bass 5th. He is seated outside the hut wearing an oversized cloak. His mother (soprano) calls him to go to bed. He delays as long as possible but finally takes his crutch and hobbles into the hut. He tells her of the large bright star and she replies that he is a chronic liar and complains of their poverty. Amahl begins a short duet – comforting his mother – which closes with ‘Good night’. While they sleep, he on a bed of straw and she on a bench, the voices of the Three Kings are heard in the distance: Kaspar (tenor), Melchior (baritone) and Balthazar (bass). Amahl wakes up and hobbles to the window. He tells his mother that he sees three kings and, of course, she does not believe him. The kings and a page (baritone) are allowed in by the bewildered mother. They settle in, the kings seated on the bench and the page on a stool, to a stately but sprightly march from the orchestra. During the following conversation there is a humorous song by Kaspar – ‘This is my box’. He shows off the precious gems in his box, but most important is the liquorice. He gives some to Amahl. In staged performances this song is often sung with Kaspar walking among the audience tossing out sweets....