Wheat sings Menotti’s opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors”

Please permit me to share with you what a great Christmas season I had. I haven’t sung a solo role in a stage production since I was in college in 1988, and I haven’t been in any kind of stage production since 1992, but this season I sang King Kaspar in Roswell Presbyterian‘s production of Gian-Carlo Menotti’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, with a full 23-piece professional orchestra. We performed two concerts, December 8 and 9, in front of a total paying audience of 1,100. It was a benefit for the Christian charity Music Mission Kiev in the Ukraine.

I got to work with the fabulous 26-year-old opera singer Shellee Wilson as Amahl’s Mother. I call her “the next Jessye Norman“. She’s headed to London for the next year. Ralph Griffin, a member of the church and the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, is a retired professional operatic bass-baritone, and played King Balthazar. King Melchoir was played by Roswell Pres. music director Bruce Graham‘s son Andrew, who has a master’s in choral conducting and is a high-school choir director. Amahl was played by 13-year-old Sarah Clements, who amazingly is as much of a classical ballet dancer as she is a singer and actress. It was a professional-calibre production and the best production of Amahl you could ever hope to see in a church in this town.

I’m happy to say that vocally I held my own with the pros. We had eight weeks of two nights a week of rehearsals, which is a lot, but I took advantage of it, and got my comedic timing down well. I didn’t know if I could pull it off and make people laugh, but guess what, I did.

I’m at the age where career professional opera tenors are retiring. I have no illusions about getting many more opportunities like this one, let alone making any money at it, but it’s gratifying. Circumstances made it difficult for me to devote much energy to singing for many years. Only in the last three years have I been able to get serious about it again, and it feels good.

Photographs are by professional photographer Stanley Leary, and he holds the copyright. Prints may be purchased at this link at photocore.us.

“One moonstone to make you sleep.”
“Choirs of angels hover over his roof and sing him to sleep.”
“Yes, good woman. Let him come with us. We’ll take good care of him.”

Most unfortunately the photographer did not shoot any pictures of me cupping my hand to my ear and saying “Eh?”.

Merry Christmas.

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