USD Opera to present ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors’

The University of South Dakota Music Department will present the classic Menotti opera, "Amahl and the Night Visitors," with two performances in December, including Saturday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Akron Opera House in Akron, IA, and on Friday, Dec. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at USD's Colton Recital Hall.

More than musicians from the university are getting in on the act of this musical production. Several members of the Vermillion community have joined forces with USD students to help with the performance of the opera.

"This is a fictional tale of the three kings' journey to see the Christ child," said Tracelyn Gesteland, an assistant professor of voice at USD who serves as stage and music director and also performs in the opera. "Along the way, they make a stop at the house of Amahl and his mother to rest a little while, and the neighborhood brings them gifts and food. There's a dance, and all kinds of wonderful things, and before they leave, a miracle happens and I don't think we want to give away what that is. It is the story of a Christmas miracle."

"Amahl and the Night Visitors" has been performed widely throughout the U.S. and the world during the Christmas season since its premier in 1951. The USD production is an hour long, one-act opera performed in English.

Community members auditioned to perform as chorus members in the opera. "The chorus parts are very suitable for people who are used to singing in church choirs and that sort of thing," Gesteland said, "so it was a perfect opportunity to open up our production to people outside the university. The music in this piece is very accessible."

She said the addition of community members to the opera's cast has enhanced the quality of its production a great deal.

"I think that our students are learning from the community members, just as the people from the community are learning from the students," Gesteland said. "It's just really neat to see people come together from all walks of life for the arts."

Holding the opening performance in Akron, IA continues the goal of outreach set by the USD Music Department.

"We really would like to see this become a quad-state area tradition, and eventually involve more people from the Vermillion community and also from other area communities," Gesteland said. "I was so impressed with the Vermillion Community Theatre this summer, and if we can tap into that level of talent in this community, the annual production will just keep getting better and better and better."

Cast members are USD senior Halie Limoges of Canton as Amahl; Dr. Gesteland as The Mother; Jon Brown, a senior from Rapid City as King Kaspar; graduate student William Darwin of Sioux City, IA, as King Melchior; Anthony Hunt, a senior from Pierre as King Balthazar; and freshman Cody Perk of Yankton, as The Page.

Angelica Elwell, Avalon Kann and Sara Otteman are dancers for the production while chorus members include Laura Bertschinger, Megan Donohoo, Kristin Edwards, Tom Emanuel, Mary Green Vickrey, Clint Johnson, Ashley Keyes, Solveig Korte, Ryan Landis, Sarah Marsolek, Ashley Evelyn Mazur, Philip Munkvold, Devin Patrick, Cody Perk, Tucker Ramhorst, Amanda Rich, Walker Rose, Jennirae Sullivan and Kendra Van Nyhuis.

Rick Piersall, A.B.D., assistant professor of voice, serves as technical director, and Patricia Downey, A.B.D., director of musical theatre at USD, is choreographer. Pianist is Parker Knox while Donohoo is stage manager and Van Nyhuis is the off-stage chorus conductor.

Tickets for the Akron production are available at the Akron Opera House at (712) 568-8747 or at the door the day of the performance. A Christmas reception will follow at the Akron Museum immediately after the Dec. 5 performance. For Colton Recital Hall, which is located at the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts, tickets are only available at the door.

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