Today's Roanoke Times featured the following "Out & About" article on our
upcoming production of Amahl & the Night Visitors, Friday Jan 6
at 6 pm at St John's Episcopal Church:
I posted my program note yesterday; below is a note from
our eminent guest conductor, Joseph Flummerfelt about his
work with the composer Gian Carlo Menotti.
A note from the guest conductor:
I am old enough to remember the world premiere of Amahl and the Night Visitors. I was only a freshman in high school, but its touching story and beautiful melodies left a lasting impression on me, and it is these qualities which cause it to continue to be the most performed work in the operatic genre. As a young teenager, little could I have imagined how intertwined my professional life would be with its composer.
That began forty years ago, when Menotti invited me to bring my choir to be a part of the world-renowned festival he founded in Spoleto, Italy. In 1977 Menotti founded its sister festival, Spoleto USA in Charleston, South Carolina, and the Westminster Choir, which I directed, continued to work with him in both festivals until 1994. Spoleto USA continues to thrive, and last summer I conducted Menotti’s one-act tragedy, The Medium, which the festival presented to honor the centennial of his birth.
Although the many years of collaboration with Gian Carlo included the Westminster Choir being the chorus for the festival operas, which included not only his own works, but many other operas he directed, Amahl was not among them because of its seasonal content. So it was a special joy when Scott Williamson called, offering me the opportunity to conduct this work, which I had loved for so many years, but only as a member of the audience.
That this performance is taking place in Roanoke is, in a certain way, also related to my long association with Menotti. During the Seventies, at the festival in Italy, I became a friend of the composer Samuel Barber, who had been Gian Carlo’s partner for many years. Barber loved the Westminster Choir, and when he became ill with cancer, he asked me to conduct the choir at his funeral when that time would come. A few years later, I received a phone call from Menotti saying that the end was near. The service would be in Barber’s hometown of Chester, Pennsylvania, but unfortunately the Choir was just about to leave for its spring tour. Providentially, on the day of the funeral, the choir had a free day in Roanoke, and I was able to fly back for the service.
That was in 1980, which, I believe, is the last time I was in this city. So being able to return to Roanoke so many years later, and to be a part of this production brings back a flood of memories about the man who gave us this beautiful work, and with whom I had the honor to work for so many years.