Free performance of holiday classic wraps up Fall Arts Celebration

'Amahl and the Night Visitors' image from Grand Valley
'Amahl and the Night Visitors' image from Grand Valley
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Grand Valley wraps up Fall Arts Celebration 2012 with a holiday gift to the community, a free performance of the holiday classic by Gian Carlo Menotti, "Amahl and the Night Visitors," one of the most popular works ever written for the American stage. It was the first opera composed specifically for U.S. network television. Originally broadcast December 24, 1951 on NBC, the beloved Christmas special quickly became an annual holiday tradition.

The family-friendly performance will be Monday, December 3, 8 p.m. at Fountain Street Church, 24 Fountain Street NE, in downtown Grand Rapids. Tickets are not required. The evening will bring together Grand Valley faculty members, students and guest artists to present a grand revival performance of this timeless story set to Menotti’s finest music, too-rarely performed today.

“Amahl and the Night Visitors” tells how a crippled, young shepherd boy’s life changes forever when he sees an amazing star "as big as a window." Three foreign kings following the star, in search of a wondrous child, encounter Amahl and his mother. The result is a Christmas miracle.

The focal figure of the opera, Amahl, will be performed by soprano Aidan Baas, a sixth-grade student at East Grand Rapids Middle School. He has performed for the past four years as a member of the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus. He spent the summer preparing for the role by working with Dale Schriemer, Grand Valley associate professor and coordinator of vocal activities.

The role of Amahl's mother will be performed by soprano Lesley Emma Bouza, a graduate of the University of Guelph, in Canada, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in music. She pursued post-graduate studies in voice at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, Wales, receiving an artist diploma.

Music faculty members Schriemer and Min Jin, will perform the exotic and magical roles of King Melchior (baritone) and King Kasper (tenor). Students Robert McFletcher (bass) and Joseph Birchler (baritone) will perform as King Balthazar and the page.

Principal dance roles of village peasants will be performed by by professional dancers Autumn Eckman, currently resident choreographer of the Giordano Ballet in Chicago, and Randy Herrera, former principal of the Houston Ballet. A chorus of shepherds and villagers is comprised of 13 students from the university's select Cantate Chamber Ensemble, directed by Ellen Pool, associate professor of music and director of choral activities. Music director Henry Duitman, associate professor, will lead the 25-member orchestra comprised of faculty and student musicians. Stage director for the production is Byron Jones, associate professor of voice and director of the opera workshop at Shenandoah Conservatory.

For more information about Fall Arts Celebration, visit www.gvsu.edu/fallarts, or call (616) 331-2180.