Amahl and the Night Visitors: Offer Yourself to Someone in Need

Woman, you can keep the gold.

I was ten when I stepped into the spotlight one Christmas night and performed various roles in Gian Carlo Minotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors. My older brother John and younger brother Bill also performed.   Our audience consisted of four very proud women—my grandmother, two aunts and my mother, who periodically dabbed at their eyes with tissue as they  laughed and cried during our performance.

If a reviewer had been there that night watching three eager children dressed in bathrobes and flowing dishtowels,  imitating the garments of Christ’s time, the best thing he or she would have written is that we knew the music—every note, every pause, every crescendo.  And we sang heartily the amazing, touching beautiful lyrics—yes, every word.

Written in 1951 for television, the opera tells the story of the poor young shepherd boy, Amahl, who in the vernacular of the day is crippled and hobbles around with the aid of a crutch.  He meets the three kings who are following the Christmas star to find Christ and deliver gifts of gold frankincense and myrrh to him.

The kings and their servant briefly stay with Amahl and his widowed mother late one night.  King Kaspar amuses everyone with his bird and various possessions which he keeps in a jeweled box.  Neighboring shepherds bring food to the destitute hovel and dance for the kings.  Later, as they dose, the mother sings of two children—the Christ child, a child of wheat, and her own disabled son, a child of thorn.  Frightened of the future and how she will care for her boy, she reaches out to take some of the kings’ gold, awakening their loyal servant.   He cries out that she is a thief and begins beating her, all the while accusing her of stealing.  Amahl limps to his mother’s defense, lashing out at the servant as best he can as he tries to balance on his weak legs.  Finally he falls into his mother’s arms, weeping.  King Melchoir then sings the most beautiful aria of the opera:

Oh woman, you can keep the gold,

The child we seek, doesn’t need our gold

On love, on love alone, he will build his city

His pierced hand will hold no scepter

His haloed head will wear no crown

His might will not be built on your toil

Swifter than lightning he will soon walk among us

He will bring us new life and receive our death.

And the keys to his city, belong to the poor.

At this point, Amahl slowly rises and offers the kings his crutch, asking them to take it to the new baby as who knows, he might need one.  As Amahl extends his only possession to the kings, a miracle occurs and he finds that he is able to walk!

The opera had been a gift to us three children a few years before, a set of four 45 rpm records that played loudly from our dining room.  Occasionally we stopped the performance to change the record!  But we sang on.  Bill, the youngest, was King Kaspar, proudly sitting beside my mother’s small lingerie chest and opening  each drawer to produce magic stones, beads, and the prized licorice during his aria.  His companion was our canary, Peter Fritz, who playing the role of Kaspar’s bird did his usual thing—scattering droppings and newspaper shreds through the bars of his cage.

During the shepherds’ song the three of us disappeared into the kitchen to return with a basket of bananas and oranges to set before our bemused audience.  We then twirled and danced the shepherds wild and free dance along the living room floor, careful not to knock each other over on our so small stage.

But even though we lacked the accoutrements necessary for a great performance, we did not lack the heart and soul, the love and involvement.  The music of Gian Carlo Minotti spoke to us and changed us even at our very young ages.  As I write this memory today, I have chills hearing Minotti’s haunting melodies in my mind and remembering his beautiful words.  This Christmas and all through the year we should offer ourselves to those in need—because the keys to his city belong to the poor.

MERRY CHRISTMAS and Happy Holidays to everyone!

(this is a repost)
Thanks to Beesonell Photostream
Amahl and the Night Visitors: Offer Yourself to Someone in Need

Beth, John and Bill perform.

7 thoughts on “Amahl and the Night Visitors: Offer Yourself to Someone in Need

  1. A beautiful memory beautifully remembered. It’s difficult to imagine a better Christmas greeting.

  2. I have laughed and had a tear in my eyes remembering the moments when the three of us performed Amahl. And to see these wonderful lyrics, here on Boomer Highway, helps me understand how important moments like Amahl are in one’s life. Christmas means a lot of different things to all of us, but the sentiment from Amahl is the one that rests so dearly in my own heart. Thanks, Bethie

  3. Thanks for this, Bill! What a great night that was. We were the best, but what really resonates is the lesson the opera taught us and how we have tried to live our lives that way. Love during this great season, Beth

  4. Thank you for your precious memories! See this greatest, most divine of all opera at

    for the 1978 video version (1st of 6 parts)

    for the 1952 audio only version (1st of 5 parts)

    • Russ,

      Thanks so much for sharing these memories with me too! When something moves you in your youth, it just stays there and nourishes you in your old age. Take care, Beth

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