From the CMA to Michael Bublé, there’s a Christmas television special to entertain you almost nightly.

There’s something to be said, though, for taking in a live holiday performance like Symphony of the Southwest’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors.”

This one-act opera, now in its second annual performance in the Valley, tells of a crippled shepherd boy (Amahl) and his mother, who provide hospitality for The Three Kings en route to worship the Christ Child.

Comissioned by NBC in 1951 as the first television opera, Gian Carlo Menotti’s all-English production provides an unusual look at the Christmas story, says Cynthia Engelsman, who sings the part of Amahl’s mother.

“I love how the perspective of the mother changes throughout the opera. She wants what’s best for her son but realizes (there’s) a bigger picture,” the Chandler soprano says.

Geralyn Blaine, who saw the performance last year, says she doesn’t consider herself an opera fan, but thought the performance was wonderful.

“I want to take the rest of my family this year,” says Blaine.

Blaine, who has always had a passion for singing, says she enjoyed the story’s theme, but it was the musicality of the singers and the ability of conductor Cal Stewart Kellogg that were remarkable.

Because the performance is short with minimal staging and very simple costumes, it provides a great way to introduce people to a new genre, says Engelsman.


What: Symphony of the Southwest performs “Amahl and the Night Visitors”

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14

Where: Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St.

Cost: $19

Information: (480) 644-6500 or

Contact writer: (480) 898-5629 or ​

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