Opera Orlando's 'Amahl and the Night Visitors' is a family-friendly holiday opera for all ages


As local arts organizations get into the thick of the holiday season, with recent performances of the usual Christmas fare and the indefatigable Nutcracker, the smaller-scale but courageous Opera Orlando has its sights set on something different: Gian Carlo Menotti’s family-friendly short opera Amahl and the Night Visitors. Inspired by a Renaissance depiction of the Adoration of the Magi, the Italian-American composer wrote the first opera ever commissioned for TV broadcast. “This is an opera for children because it tries to recapture my own childhood,” Menotti recounted in his notes for the original 1951 recording. “When I was a child I lived in Italy, and in Italy we have no Santa Claus. I suppose that Santa Claus is much too busy with American children to be able to handle Italian children as well. Our gifts were brought to us by the Three Kings, instead.” Amahl tells the story of a fateful encounter between a shepherd boy and the Three Wise Men as they follow the star to Bethlehem. Starring Dalton Joseph and Tyler Kreusch in the title role and Polish-American mezzo Ola Rafalo as the Mother, this production by Eric Pinder includes a collaboration with the Orlando Ballet for the two performances at the Pugh and a five-piece music ensemble conducted by Robin Jensen. With a story full of surprises, a memorable and tuneful score, and a miracle thrown in for good measure, Amahl and the Night Visitors is a fitting addition to Orlando’s holiday offerings.

2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday; Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater, Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 445 S. Magnolia Ave.; 844-513-2014; drphillipscenter.org, $65 | 2 p.m. Tuesday; Central Christian Church, 250 SW Ivanhoe Blvd.; operaorlando.org; $15