By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN There will be an abundance of local talent at the Church of St. Peter in Delano this weekend, with three performances of a one-act opera called “Amahl and the Night Visitors.”
Enchanting characterization, convincing costumes, and powerful music unite in this popular play that’s performed throughout the world each Christmas season.
“It’s a very, very touching story,” said producer Gary Janisch of Delano. “Usually, towards the end, people have watery eyes.”
Performances will be in the main section of the church, at 217 S 2nd St., Thursday, Dec. 3, Friday, Dec. 4, and Saturday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m.
There will be a free will offering, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Love INC, a charity that helps local people in need.
“Amahl and the Night Visitors” is an hour-long opera written by Gian-Carlo Menotti that is sung in English.
“You can actually express everything through music,” said 9-year-old Alyssa Trautman of Delano, who plays Amahl, a crippled shepherd boy.
The story centers on Amahl, who lives with his widowed mother. Three kings come to their home while following a star to Bethlehem.
“This is an inspiring story of how faith, charity, unselfish love, and good deeds can work miracles,” Janisch said.
Drama director Linda Schaust said the play is kind of like “A Christmas Carol.”
“Everyone’s take is a little different,” Schaust said. “The intensity is pretty much left to your interpretation.”
She and the cast have been working for months to get everything just right for the performances.
“I’m very focused on characterization and nuances,” Schaust said.
Schaust encourages people who have seen the play before to come again, because each performance is unique.
The Church of St. Peter did this production in 2006 with more than 840 people attending, Janisch said.
Other churches from the area are also very involved in the performance, he added.
Many singers from the choirs of St. Peter and St. Joseph Catholic churches in Delano, along with other churches, will perform in the shepherd’s chorus.
Joseph Henry, an accomplished musician, has been training the chorus.
“He can play the organ and the piano like nobody’s business,” said Irene Gardner of Delano, who is in the shepherd’s chorus.
The talent of the actors and actresses is also notable. Janisch described 9-year-old Trautman as “unbelievable.”
This is Trautman’s first time in an opera, and she said she’ll definitely do it again.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I think it’s really cool and really powerful.”
Trautman’s ambition is to become an actress when she grows up.
The props, costumes, set, and sound quality are also of high quality, Janisch said. The stage will be on a 4-foot platform, and the performers will be wearing personal microphones.
“Every viewing point from the church, you’ll be able to have a great view of the production,” he said.
“I think they’re really going to enjoy it,” Trautman said.
Cast and Crew
Here are a few tidbits about each of the main people who worked to make the Delano performance of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” a reality.
• Dr. Joseph Henry, musical director/producer/pianist, has performed solo, chamber, art song, and operatic literature in Europe, South America, and Asia. He is also the music director for the churches of St. Peter and St. Joseph in Delano.
• Linda Schaust, drama director, holds a bachelor of arts degree in creative writing and literature and has a strong interest in art. Her connection to theater is literal and visual.
• Tony Schaust, set director, has built sets for three productions, with the last being “Polly Anna,” a production in Watertown this past summer.
• Greg Elsen of Loretto plays King Kasper. He attended Delano High School and has been the music director of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Loretto since 1995.
• Richard Kubista of Delano plays King Balthazar, and is a member of the Holy Name Church in Medina.
• Joe McDonald plays the Page. He’s been in more than 15 productions since 1980, and is the Mayor of Delano.
• Father Christopher Wenthe, who plays King Melchior, is pastor of the churches of St. Peter and St. Joseph in Delano.
• Peg Janisch, Amahl’s Mother, is a cantor at St. Peter’s Church. She began acting in 1989, and has performed in nearly 20 productions in surrounding communities.
• Gary Janisch, the play’s producer/coordinator, is married to Peg Janisch. They make their home in Delano.
• Alyssa Trautman, who plays Amahl, is a 9-year-old who had her first Christmas solo in second grade. She recently played an Indian girl in a production of “Annie Get Your Gun.”