"It's just right for this season!" That comment is producer-director Mozelle Sherman's happy and, I would add, well-deserved reaction to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's and her moving production of Amahl and the Night Visitors. Amahl is Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti's one-act Christmas gem which he wrote for NBC's ﬁrst telecast opera.
Dr. Sherman is well qualified to produce this opus. She was introduced to it in grand fashion, beginning with enacting, at age 19, the role of Amahl 's distraught and sometimes incredulous mother. "Our college got several letters from Maestro Menotti about how to stage his work." Though she has presented this opera several times for the Seminary, she emphasizes,"I would like to see other churches offer this work."
But that would not be either easy or simple. She told Louisville Music News that this year's production required some 20 rehearsals, an orchestra of 37, plus persons talented in art, lighting, design, set fabrication, stage management, costurning and make-up. But her expertise and enthusiasm put it together; interest grew so that she could prepare three distinct casts. "That's great; it always makes me happy when I can let everyone who wants to be in a production take part in it." Dr. Lloyd Mims, Dean of the Seminary's School of Music, wielded a skilled baton, resulting in a delightful rendering of Menotti's score. This observer found the music different, creative and, at times, enchanting.
Bosch's painting, Adoration of the Magi, was Menotti's inspiration. Amahl, a youngster who walks only with the aid of self-made crutches, lives with his widowed mother in extremely modest circumstances. One night their rest is interrupted by loud knocking on their door. It is the three wise men (Magi) and their page who, legend tells us, have seen an extraordinary star. However interrupting it was, they have come to believe it announces the birth of a child so they follow it. By the time they arrive at Amahl's home, they are weary from camel riding and ask for refuge for the night. What follows is both entertaining and inspiring. I won't spoil your delight by retelling the full story except to say that it is a story with more surprises than one and it has meaning for all who are open and humble of heart.
Production difficulties include finding a young boy whose voice has the required range. Not being able this year to locate such a talent, Dr. Sherman cast three young girls."It's not always easy to find a girl who is able or willing to act like a boy," she conﬁded.