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Arts and Entertainment

Messiah Project's "Holiday Prelude" Again Features "Amahl And The Night Visitors"

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(Poster design courtesy Messiah Project)
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Messiah Project presents their annual "Holiday Prelude" performance, featuring "Holiday Memories in Song" and Gian-Carlo Menotti's Christmas opera "Amahl and the Night Visitors" on Friday, November 15th at 7 PM, and Saturday, November 16th at 2 PM at Venture Church, 1515 West Elfindale Street in Springfield.  We were joined on “Arts News” by Messiah Project’s Lindsey Robison, and one of the vocalists performing in “Amahl,” tenor Eric Meruelo, singing the role of King Kaspar.                                          

Venture Church, the former Cornerstone Church on the old Elfindale property on the northwest corner of Sunshine and Fort, represents a bit of a homecoming for Lindsey Robison.  “I was associate pastor at then-Cornerstone Church. It’s a wonderful facility, a lot of modern technology, so it’s really well-equipped.”

Eric Meruelo told us he’s been “involved with The Messiah Project since 1997. Been singing professionally for 45 years.  I started out as the soloist, for almost 22 years, at Dr. Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral. And ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors’ is very dear to me—I started out as a boy soloist and did Amahl in 1978 and 1981. So to come back in 2007 with Lindsey and start portraying King Kaspar over the past 12 years has just been a blessing for me.”  Meruelo has spent 22 years in Springfield. “I have done several things with Springfield Regional Opera and throughout the community, and been very involved with music ministry.” Meruelo works as a mortage loan office at Central Bank of the Ozarks.

Eric Meruelo was actually in the running for the TV version of the opera filmed in London and the Holy Land in 1978 with the all-star cast of Teresa Stratas, Giorgio Tozzi and Willard White. The lead role went to young Robert Sapolsky—who later came to Springfield as an adult lyric baritone and sang Figaro in Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” for Springfield Regional Opera in the early 1990s. Meruelo filled us in on the details. “When I was doing Amahl, and I was with the Boys Choirs with (Robert Schuller’s) ‘Hour of Power,’ we toured in San Antonio in 1978. That was the year that NBC was bringing back ‘Amahl’. And they had reached out to me to actually portray it. The filming was to be done in Israel… of course I was young, and my parents said ‘No!’ But just to have the honor of being selected to portray that.”

“We’ll start off the program with two school groups: the sixth grade Select Choir from Reed Academy (performing Friday night), and then the Ozark Middle School Choir on Saturday afternoon,” said Lindsey Robison.  “That’ll give us kind of a children’s choir, and they’re really quite good. So we’ll have all those young people. We’ll also have a chamber group under the direction of Cathy Love, doing kind of a prelude before the event starts. And the Messiah Singers will come and do some holiday music. We call the first half ‘Holiday Memories in Song’, and we always like to have those familiar songs come forth before the holidays. Sunshine Performing Arts Academy will provide the choreography for ‘Amahl.’ So we kind of have the whole community coming together to bring this to pass. We’re also very excited that Troy Robertson will play the role of King Balthazar, and Melchior will be sung by Andrew Curtis. Taylor Edwards is playing the part of the Mother, and we have this delightful young man, Eric Decker, (who) will play the part of Amahl.” Usually in the past they have double-cast the role of Amahl, but Eric Decker will sing both Friday and Saturday. “So it’s a little high risk, but he’s a healthy young guy so I think he’ll be fine!” added Robison.

Lindsey Robison mentioned that Messiah Project’s conductor based in Poland led his own production of “Amahl” in Poland a few years ago, so “it’s going around the world. (‘Amahl’) is such a great story, and I’ve told several people I always shed a tear, and I always laugh during this performance. You know, we have ‘Nutcracker’ which is a great annual tradition. And ‘Amahl’ has been, for this community at our hands, a wonderful tradition to keep alive. So we really want to invite the people to come out.”

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12. They'll be available at the door, or online at https://www.messiahproject.org.