Friday, December 26, 2008

And the keys to his city belong to the poor

Several years ago - nearly 20, in fact - I appeared as Melchior in an amateur production of Amahl and the Night Visitors.

The previous year, the local Lutheran pastor, the local United Church minister and ours truly had appeared as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come in a musical version of A Christmas Carol.  We returned (well, a new United Church minister) as the three kings in Amahl.  Our voice coach took to referring to us as the Righteous Brothers.

Giancarlo Menotti's opera tells the story of a woman and her crippled son who are visited by the magi en route to Bethlehem.  It was originally written for a Christmas broadcast on NBC in the 1950s, and rebroadcast annually for several years thereafter.  My only knowledge of the piece comes from this amateur performance in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan lo these many years ago. 

Melchior's most important aria is a profound comment on the nature of Christ's kingship.  Two decades on, I can still sing the piece by heart.

This isn't me.  The only extant video of our performance a) isn't on YouTube and b) isn't very good.  (I'm not convinced I was that good anyway.)  To set the scene, the impoverished widow has talked herself into stealing a small amount of the gold, and has been caught by one of the kings' attendants.  The young Amahl is defending his mother:  

Don't you dare!  
Don't you dare!  
Don't you dare, ugly man, hurt my mother!  
Don't you dare!  
Don't you dare!

Oh woman, you may keep the gold.
The child we seek doesn't need our gold.
On love, on love alone he will build his kingdom.
His pierced hand will hold no sceptre.
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.

Hat tip to Marshall at Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside for reminding me.

1 comment:

Country Parson said...

Thanks for the reminder. That was my favorite of all Christmas programs, and I miss it.