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Petite Opera presents "Amahl and the Night Visitors" and asks "Would you Like Even MORE Entertainment With That?"

Petite Opera presents "Amahl and the Night Visitors" Dec 2-11, 2011 in Park Ridge, IL

Petite Opera presents "Amahl and the Night Visitors" Dec 2-11, 2011 in Park Ridge, IL

Company provides full-scale opera AND featured artist show in one
This December, Petite Opera is serving up a feast of entertainment. The professional opera company, out of its resident venue at Mary Wilson House Beyer Auditorium in Park Ridge, presents the beloved holiday opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian Carlo Menotti, accompanied by a bounty of featured artists to open the show each night. It’s like getting a 6-course dinner of entertainment, paying for a 2-course meal, and you don’t have to drive downtown Chicago or pay for parking. So, not only do patrons get a professional opera, but can attend virtually every performance and feel like they’re seeing a new show each time.

Amahl and the Night Visitors, the first opera written especially for television, aired on NBC Christmas Eve 1951, is believed to be the most frequently viewed opera ever written. This powerfully touching one-act opera is also one of the few to feature a child in the leading role. It is ideally suited for children and families that want to re-connect with the power of the season. “The story speaks to us in a way that few operas can,” says Petite Opera Executive Director, Susan Baushke, of Des Plaines.

“The story of Amahl is about the transformative power of giving,” says Stage Director Cathy Dunn-Protopapas of Chicago. During the course of the opera, each and every character gives something—of themselves, their possessions, their faith—and it helps transform them into who they are. In that, it represents the growth each of us undergoes when we give. It transforms us.”

The Story
It’s nearing the first Christmas Eve, but young, crippled 11-year-old Amahl doesn’t know that. He and his widowed mother are poor and on the verge of begging, but still Amahl maintains a sunny disposition, and is charmed by all he sees. He sees the biggest, most incredible star in the sky, and describes it to his mother, only to have her rebuke him for once again telling lies. Then three Kings knock on the door and ask to spend the night before continuing their journey to follow the star. They lay out expensive gifts they have brought for the Messiah. The Mother is tempted to steal the gifts to care for crippled Amahl, but is instead touched by the wonders of the Christ child as told by the kings. Likewise, Amahl is so moved that he offers his crutch as a gift to the child, and a miracle occurs.

The Uniqueness of Petite Opera’s Vision
Served up by Petite Opera’s talented and insightful artistic staff—Stage Director, Cathy Dunn-Protopapas Miguel Lopez-Lemus of Chicago (set/scenic designer), Libby McGuire of Des Plaines (Choreographer) Ed Spytek of Evanston (Music Director), and Steven Arvanites of Des Plaines (Director of Production)—patrons enter the world of the first Christmas as seen through the eyes of a child, where wonder and hope are the magic all around us.

“The word Magi originally referred to caste of Persian priests who were believed to be magical. As a result, we wanted to capture the magic of the kings in a fantastical way,” says Dunn-Protopapas. “So Miguel (Lopez-Lemus, set/scenic designer) sculpted oversized paper mache heads, like they use in European and Mexican festivals, to transform the Kings and their camels into fantastical creatures transformed by their giving and faith.”

The cast features five trained adults and two children. Professional vocalists include Shea Walters of Park Ridge and Henry Lunn of Lake Forest as Amahl (on alternating performances), Denise Knowlton of Park Ridge and Regina Webster of Skokie (on alternating performances), Edward Ozaki of Chicago as King Kaspar, Noah Gartner of Brookfield as King Melchior, Aaron Bolden of Rockford as King Balthazar, and David Hertzig of Chicago as The Page. Additional cast includes an all-ages Shepherds chorus with members from Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Chicago, and eleven student dancers from Galina Dance Studio in Des Plaines. Musical Director, Ed Spytek, provides piano accompaniment.
Petite Opera Productions presents six performances of the opera, in English, December 2-11, 2011 at Mary Wilson House Beyer Auditorium, (part of St. Mary’s Episcopal church campus), 306 S Prospect Ave (at Crescent Ave), Park Ridge, IL. Prior to each performance, patrons receive an additional treat.

“While Petite Opera’s mission is to make everyone an opera lover in a fun, approachable way, we are also very engaged in growing the cultural awareness of the community, and want to support organizations that also have that mission,” says Baushke. “Since Amahl is a one-act opera (about one hour in length), we wanted to expand the performance offering for patrons, give them even more entertainment for their money, and further set the tone of the holiday season,” she continued. “The result is that five featured artist groups will rotate throughout the performance run, each offering a unique, complete 30-45-minute performance prior to the first scene of Amahl.”

Featured artists include The Lutheran Choir of Chicago, an a capella choir directed by Wilbert O. Watkins (Friday, December 2 at 7:30 PM); The Great Frankini, the award-winning, family-oriented magician, Frank J. Glab, (Saturday, December 3 matinee at 2:00 PM); Musicke’s Merrie Companions, a recorder quintet consisting of members of the Oak Park Recorder Society (Saturday, December 3 at 7:30 PM and Sunday, December 11 matinee at 4:00 PM); The Galina Dance Studio, Des Plaines dancers and vocalists in an original vignette “The Christmas Tree” (Friday, December 9 at 7:30 PM); and The Willows Academy Chamber Choir, a twenty-three member girls chorus from Des Plaines, directed by Karen Wilberg (Saturday, December 10 at 7:30 PM).

Tickets are $25 for adults, $22 for Seniors, (ages 62 plus) $15 for Students (K-college) and Children under age 5 are free. Tickets may be reserved by calling 847.553.4442 (for cash or check payment at Box office prior to each show), or may be purchased online via credit card at the company website, www.petiteopera.org (credit card convenience fees apply).
Baushke adds, “If you only see one show this holiday season, make it Petite Opera’s Amahl. After all, you won’t be seeing just one show; you’ll get two for the price of one.
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Founded in 2007, Petite Opera Productions is a professional opera company that caters to everyday music and theatre lovers with the intention of converting them into opera lovers. The company performs in Mary Wilson House Beyer Auditorium in Park Ridge, Illinois—a general admission, intimate setting of less than 200 seats that allows the audience to become engaged in the work through interaction with the characters. Works are drawn from lighter, often comic opera literature, operetta and legitimate musical theatre that cater to the acoustic voice. The company also produces spooferettas to introduce newcomers to opera. These are original parodies that utilize popular opera songs coupled with new plots and lyrics. All productions are performed in English.

Submitted by Susan Baushke, Executive Director of Petite Opera Productions, member of its Artistic Team, and Marketing Director for the organization.

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