A mother of a young disabled boy fights desperately to escape their impoverished life for just one chance at a magical holiday for her son.
Her desperation leads her to commit a crime against the three kings, or magi, bearing gifts to the newly born saviour. Even though she strays, she eventually receives forgiveness.
The tale unfolds in Amahl and the Night Visitors, an opera written by Gian Carlo Menotti, aimed at children.
Menotti said the inspiration came from the painting The Adoration of the Magi, by Hieronymus Bosch, which hung at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
The main character is the boy Amahl, who walks with a crutch. His mother worries about his future and that he will have to resort to begging to survive. The story explores the relationship between the mother and son and the lengths the mother will go to secure her son’s future.
“It’s a really beautiful story. It’s a story of hope and forgiveness,” said Tyler Fitzgerald, who plays King Melchior, one of the three wise men.
The cast gathered for a dress rehearsal at Lakeside Gardens Retirement Community Dec. 15.
It was the first time the performers sang together. They have been practising their parts in isolation because they hail from across the Island.
Between the starts and stops, and guidance from the director, the voices began to meld into a harmonic wave of beauty that settled in the hearts of onlookers.
As residents retired to their rooms after the show, smiles flashed across their faces, and they thanked the performers for the evening entertainment.
The cast stars numerous Island performers. Parksville’s Skye Donald plays the mother and Nanaimo’s Sharon Wishart provides accompaniment on piano.
Fitzgerald, originally from Nanaimo, has performed around the world. The bass-baritone performer has sang alongside the Edmonton Symphony, Peterborough Singers and Calgary Bach Society. He has played several roles over the years in opera companies in Canada and the United States.
Nanaimo’s Jack Mace, 10, plays the part of Amahl. He tried out after his music teacher suggested it.
“I love music,” he said. “It’s very fun, especially practising with adults.”
Mace is currently exploring his artistic options and hasn’t settled on any path, but just wants to gain a variety of experiences.
“There will be many surprises … and a fair amount of laughs because there are some funny parts,” said Mace about the production.
When asked about his young Nanaimo cast member, Fitzgerald had nothing but praise for Mace.
“He’s got a cool twinkle in his eye. He has presence,” said Fitzgerald, adding that it’s a trait you can’t teach someone.
Fitzgerald is glad to be back home to perform for his family, friends and Nanaimo residents.
“It feels like you get a chance to give back to an audience that don’t get to hear you all the time,” said Fitzgerald.
Amahl and the Night Visitors is Opera Nanaimo’s first “fully in-house produced opera” according to the organization’s website.
Fitzgerald said Opera Nanaimo “exposes people to a new art form” that they might not experience otherwise. The organization formed in the spring of 2014 with the goal of revitalizing opera in Nanaimo.
Amahl shows Dec. 29-30, 7:30 p.m. at the Ecumenical Centre, located at 6234 Spartan Rd.
Tickets are $20 or $15 for students in advance by calling 250-754-8550 or visiting www.porttheatre.com. Tickets cost $28 at the door. For more information, please go to http://operananaimo.ca/wordpress.