'Amahl and the Night Visitors:' Opera in a New York City soup kitchen

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Sandy Kenyon reports on an opera in a New York City soup kitchen.

The opera "Amahl and the Night Visitors" was written back in 1951 by the late Gian Carlo Menotti and first performed on television, and in the years since, it has stood the test of time to become a holiday classic.

But this week, a production in Chelsea gives the opera new meaning.

The music is made more magical by where it's being performed and by whom -- those who have recently been hungry and homeless.

"I don't even know how to explain it," said Christine Flood, who spent a dozen years on the streets. "I can't even say it's a dream come true, because it's beyond a dream."

Before winning a part in the chorus, J.C.Z. Rockwell had been homeless in New York City at various times since 1982.

"Even though I don't have material things, I have intrinsic creativity and gifts to give," he said.

Rockwell and the other members of the chorus are helped by a non-profit group called Breaking Ground, which provides housing for the city's homeless.

The professional musicians and singers are part of On Site Opera, a company that brings this music to places where it is not normally heard.

"It adds a new layer of honesty and connection with the deeper messages of the piece," Artistic Director Eric Einhorn said.

The setting for this production is the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen in Chelsea, where the Executive Director is The Reverend Dr. Anna Pearson.

"The themes of 'Amahl and the Night Visitors' are very relevant to where we are today," Rev. Dr. Pearson said. "We're in a city where one in eight people struggle to put food on the table."
Rich and poor come together in the opera, and in the audience, they are connected by a common humanity.

"I'm one, little part of that," Flood said. "And that's just an amazing feeling."

"Amal and the Night Visitors" will be performed a total of four times starting Thursday evening, December 6, and continuing through Saturday, December 8. Tickets are free, but reservations are required, and organizers are asking those who attend to bring non-perishable food items to be donated to the soup kitchen.

For more information, visit OSOpera.org/productions/Amahl/

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