“It’s very much written for kids and written for family,” says Ron Long, one of three directors in charge of Edmonton’s CoOPERAtive Opera’s holiday production, Amahl and the Night Visitors, which is back for its third year.
The one-act performance by Gian Carlo Menotti offers an accessible experience for multiple generations as it tells the story of the three wise men. The trio are apparently on their way to Bethlehem when they stop for the night at the home of a mother and her young, crippled son. Long doesn’t want to give away too many details, but there may be a miracle in store, too.
“We wanted to make a little tradition out of it and we’re trying to also allow it to help us start building up and do other operas throughout the year,” he says of CoOPERAtive Opera, which he founded alongside Elizabeth Raycroft and Clint Hagel as an avenue to provide more performance opportunities for local opera singers.
The opera is presented in partnership with the Steadward Centre’s Free2BMe Program, an aspect that falls under CoOPERAtive’s second initiative: to raise awareness of local charities. The Free2BMe program allows children, teens and adults facing disabilities a chance to improve their overall health, lifestyle and physical fitness, while the Free2BMe Physical Activity for Kids and Teens with Disabilities program at the centre is an adapted physical activity program for children and teens age four to 19 with motor delays, physical, sensory and developmental impairments.
The production’s first Amahl, Jeffrey Swanson—now replaced by 11-year-old Justin Wong due to Swanson’s voice becoming too mature for a soprano role—has a disability of his own, and Long explains Swanson’s father had suggested partnering with the Steadward Centre, as his son was benefitting from its programs.
“In the future, part of my vision is that we, if we do another opera, whatever the main issue is in that opera, that we would invite a cause that is linked to that and showcase it and help raise money for it,” Long adds. “I think it’s a part of being in the community. You know, we live in this community and it’s a way for us to give back, and I think through story, the arts really, through theatre and opera and all that stuff, there’s a lot of problems in society that are reflected in arts and so I think it’s a wonderful way to highlight those things and give back to it.”
Fri, Dec 20 and Sat, Dec 21 (7 pm; 3 pm Saturday matinee)
Holy Trinity Anglican Church, $5 – $15