Feature image courtesy FHSU Department of Music and Theatre – Hilary Shepard
STORY BY JESSALYN KIRCHHOFF
“Amahl and the Night Visitors” will be appearing this weekend at Fort Hays State University thanks to Director Ivalah Allen, and the featured FHSU Music and Theatre students.
Carlo Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors” is a one-act American opera written in English.
“A young boy, Amahl, lives with his widowed mother. Since his father’s death, Amahl and his mother have become very poor, with little to sustain them,” Allen, an associate professor of voice at FHSU and director of “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” said. “They are visited one night by three kings who are following a bright star to find the Christ Child. The kings ask Amahl’s mother if they can stay for rest overnight.”
According to Allen, this opera is kid-friendly, so everyone will be able to enjoy it. Viewers can expect some interesting and funny surprises throughout. This one-hour opera will give adults and children alike moments of laughter, goosebumps, and probably some tears.
“The mother insists they have nothing for hospitality, but are welcome to take shelter in her small home,” she said. “Events throughout the night lead to great revelations.”
The cast was selected in November 2022 and rehearsals started in January 2023 with two daytime rehearsals each week plus some evening rehearsals.
Sadie Biedenbender, who will be playing Amahl in the Opera this year, says that oftentimes she forgets when they began practicing because of how far they have come.
“To be completely honest, I cannot remember the exact time of when we started rehearsals because of how much we have done,” Biedenbender said.
Even though this is only a one-act, one-hour English opera, the music is quite difficult and has been challenging for the crew. Biedenbender expands on these struggles.
“I think the biggest obstacle for me was simply just learning the music,” she said. “It is super tricky and I was struggling for a while before I actually had it all memorized and was able to sing with the accompaniment.”
Although Biedenbender has had to overcome a few obstacles, she has also thoroughly enjoyed her role in this year’s opera. Her favorite aspect of playing Amahl is the fact that she is a 21-year-old woman having to play a 10-year-old boy.
“It’s always funny when I tell people to come watch the Opera to ‘see me play a little boy,’” she said.
Although Allen does not share Biedenbender’s love of ‘playing a little boy’, she still has appreciated the part that she has been able to play in the production. As the director, Allen’s favorite part has been watching how all of the students have far exceeded their own expectations of what they can do.
“They have learned difficult music and are singing better than they have ever sung before,” Allen said. “I couldn’t be more proud of each and every cast member.”
Allen goes on to rave about how singers, stagecraft students, and orchestra musicians have all come together to create a beautiful show.
“It is always wonderful to watch students from all areas of the FHSU Department of Music and Theatre work together and have fun at the same time,” she said. “It is also refreshing to see Music and Theatre faculty support each other and the students, whether they are part of the project or not.”
Biedenbender said events like this benefit students who are included in the show by creating bonds with everyone in the cast and that productions like these can also benefit students who come to watch the performance by seeing just how much it takes to actually put everything all together.
“I don’t think people realize how much time/effort/some tears it actually takes,” she said.
Allen would like to thank Mr. Ben Cline, professor of Cello and chair of the Department of Music and Theatre, for organizing and directing the opera pit orchestra.
“His leadership and musical knowledge is wonderful for the students to expand their experiences. He has done so much to encourage this show,” Allen said.
The opera opens tonight starting at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students; however, there is special pricing available for groups of 10 or more. To order tickets – especially the 10 or more group tickets – call the Fort Hays State University Department of Music and Theatre at 785-6238-4533.
For more information on the event, as well as more FHSU Department of Music and Theatre events, check out this link for a full schedule of activities, shows, and events. https://www.fhsu.edu/music-and-theatre/arts-calendar .