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It's Official: The Holiday Music Season Begins

Amahl and the Night Visitors

The Nutcracker and Amahl and the Night Visitors

On the classical music scene, it’s good to know that the firewall represented by Thanksgiving still is intact. The classical holiday scene does get underway, however, in high style the weekend after Thanksgiving with multiple performances of two holiday favorites. The Neglia Ballet Artists and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra present a fully-staged production of Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet The Nutcracker at Shea’s, while the Nickel City Opera Company presents Amahl and the Night Visitors at the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda. This jam packed weekend of family-oriented, classical music events is just the right antidote for the hopefully ever-increasing number of people who want to escape the madness of Black Friday and its aftermath.

Amahl and the Night Visitors

The one act opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, by the Italian composer Gian Carlo Menotti, enjoys the unique distinction of being the initial production in 1951 of the still-running Hallmark Hall of Fame, to be broadcast live on American television, and it has been a Christmas season favorite ever since. The Nickel City Opera Company will present four performances of Amahl and the Night Visitors on Friday, November 28 at 3pm and 7pm, Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 3pm, at the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda. The story, which takes just under an hour to unfold, focuses on a crippled little boy who gets a visit from the Three Kings on their journey to the Nativity, resulting in some magically wonderful results. Metropolitan Opera bass baritone Valerian Ruminski, a Buffalo native is the artistic director of the Nickel City Opera Company. Launching his new opera company at the height of the Great Recession, Ruminski has beat the odds, using his hard-gained knowledge as an opera insider, to shepherd his fledgling opera company to a firm financial footing, while presenting ever-increasingly stronger productions of some of the most popular operas in the repertoire every June for the past six seasons.

Four years ago, NCO launched its annual Christmas season production of Amahl and the Night Visitors, making very effective use of the ability of the huge Wurlitzer Organ, at the fully-restored Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda, to take the place of a full pit of orchestral musicians, especially when played by organist Robert Hull. He will again prove that when you are at the keyboard of the mighty Wurlitzer Organ, you don’t necessarily need any other instruments.

“New York City based Gregory Sheppard, who has played King Balthazar for the last four years, has a new vision and idea for the production,” says Ruminski, “and there will be some new surprises. The role of the Mother will be performed by Jacqueline Quirk, an artistic administrator for NCO, who has been singing all over the country and will be directing Bluebeard’s Castle for the Virginia Opera Festival next March. The role of Amahl will be sung by the young Nick Tillinghast, from Arcade, where he sang the role last year. Our three kings are James Wright, David MacAdam and Gregory Sheppard, who, as the production’s director, will be doing double duty. Michael Hawk appears as the Page and Amanda Watson and Megan Rutkowski, from Nickel City Dance Studio, will be our dancers. Matt Marco from Fredonia conducts the singers and the show is produced by Wesley Krantz”.

Tickets: $20; Senior (62+) $18; Youth: $10. Phone: 692-2413


The BPO Nutcracker at Shea’s

There are usually a half-dozen, or more, productions of The Nutcracker presented in Western New York every holiday season, but there is only one that presents Tchaikovsky’s perennial favorite with full orchestral accompaniment, the way it was originally conceived, as opposed to the more usual “canned” music. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Shea’s Performing Arts Center and Neglia Ballet Artists will collaborate for the sixth consecutive year to present two performances of The Nutcracker conducted by the BPO’s new associate conductor, Stefan Sanders, on Saturday November 29 at 7pm and Sunday at 2pm, at Shea’s Performing Arts Center.

The traditional production, conceived, choreographed and produced by Neglia Ballet’s artistic director Sergio Neglia and executive director Heidi Halt, features 120 characters danced by a corps de ballet, soloists and principal professional ballet dancers from around the world as well as students from Neglia Conservatory of Ballet and other local dance studios.

Gabrielle Thurlow, a native of Buffalo and former Neglia Conservatory student, who will perform the principal role of Dew Drop is currently a member of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre where she was recently promoted to soloist. “We’re so pleased to bring Gaby in to perform with us,” says Neglia, who will perform the role of Cavalier, “since she was a gifted student and it’s no surprise that she is doing so well.”

Tickets: $29/40/55.

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