OVER the years I have seen numerous productions of Gian-Carlo Menotti’s delightful mini-opera Amahl and the Night Visitors but I can honestly say that none have bettered Wheathampstead’s community opera production last week

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Staged in the village’s ancient St Helen’s Church the production, directed by Tim Armstrong-Taylor and produced by Ruth Coles, was an absolute delight with a fine mix of good singing, acting and dance as well as orchestral playing.

A first for the village, the community opera production doubtless benefitted from having a first class cast of principals with English National Opera mezzo Deborah Davison as Amahl’s mother, Geoff Ward as the deaf King Kaspar, Hugh L’Estrange as Melchior and Des Turner as Balthazar, all aided by Alan French as the page.

Deborah Davison’s portrayal of the mother was extremely fine, switching from anger to tenderness and gentleness, and all three kings gave amusing performances with fine facial expressions and characterisations as well as good voices.

But for me the star of the first night was Karl Puranik as Amahl. His portrayal was a delight and his musical ability sparkled. Karl shared the role at alternate performances with Oliver Wood.

Equally the fine work by the chorus and excellent dance routines performed by Tess Corscaden and Sarah Leadbetter also contributed greatly to the production as did the performance by a well-drilled orchestra under musical director David Ireson.

As a community effort this production of Amahl demonstrated just how much can be achieved in a local area, not just to provide a fine level of entertainment but also to hopefully produce a profit to help maintain the 13th Century St Helen’s Church.

JOHN MANNING

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