St Thomas, Winchelsea, 23 November 2019
Menotti’s miniature gem Amahl and the Night Visitors was a regular favourite forty years ago but has surprisingly slipped from favour in more recent Christmases. This is strange given its immense appeal even if that leans towards the sentimental. The score is immediate, accessible and has a post-Puccini tunefulness which is engaging throughout. It also moves the story forward in the most naturalistic way. Opera South East’s semi-staged approach worked convincingly as the score lets the story unfold very precisely – we hear Amahl hopping across to the door and back with great clarity – while at the same time the points of emotional tension were well shaped and carried through. Have you seen a child is a case in point where we see the tension of the kings’ vision set against the realities of grinding poverty.
Julia Bovee was a sympathetic mother, frustrated by her son’s constant lies, until confronted with a truth stranger than fiction. Daisy Wardle was outstanding as Amahl, the clarity and innocence of the voice combined with a real sense of personality. Gary Marriott, Arthur Coomber and Oscar Smith gave the kings individuality as well as gravity – well all except Kaspar’s rather over-enthusiastic outbursts – and John Rycroft brought strength to the small but vital part of the page.
The chorus and dance sections are essential to the work so it was good to have a small but enthusiastic choral group and Maya Godlonton-White performing the shepherd’s dance with easy elegance.
The work does not really make for an evening’s entertainment so we were treated to some pre-Christmas delights even if it is not yet quite Advent. The choir were joined by the Fipple Consort who brought us recorder ensemble arrangements of Gaudete and Purcell’s Rondo from Abdelazer, Gary Marriott sang O Holy Night, Daisy Wardle We’re walking in the air and the evening ended with Ken Roberts on sax and three popular 1950s Christmas favourites. Ken had worked overtime throughout the evening as he led from the piano while conducting with his usual panache.
Next up from OSE is The Mikado in April.