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Franklin Opera House presents a musical holiday classic

 Christopher Martinez plays the lead role of Amahl.

Christopher Martinez plays the lead role of Amahl.

Don’t expect horned hats, foreign languages or zaftig ladies having the last word when it comes to a night at the opera this week in Franklin.

Instead, the way the ageless themes of innocence and poverty, charity and goodness are treated in the holiday classic opera Amahl and the Night Visitors are much more modern than one might expect.

“I hate to use the word opera,” said Jim Barnes, with the Franklin Opera House. “It is an opera. But it is not an opera in the classic sense of what you would conjure up in your mind. It is sung in English, it was written in English. It is more modern, secondly than a Wagner opera, so it should resonate with people, it should be understandable to people.”

Director Jane Cormier said that in the Just Love to Sing! production she is staying true to composer Gian Carlo Menotti’s original.

“I think everybody is in need of some hopeful, graceful entertainment,” Cormier said. “This is something that’s graceful and gets us ready to celebrate with our families. There is such a lack of grace in our lives these days. I really feel like it’s almost a lost art form.
. . . Everything is so big and loud and in your face, and so this whole thing was put together to bring people back to yesteryear when it was really more quiet. A more quiet time.”

The one-act opera was first presented on NBC’s Hallmark Hall of Fame on Christmas Eve in 1951 and replayed each year until the original recording was lost. It’s the story of a young, disabled boy, Amahl, who is visited by the Magi – the three wise men – on their way to visit the newborn Christ child. The story takes a few twists after this initial meeting. For instance, in an attempt to help Amahl, his mother is caught stealing gold from the Magi. But the Magi are sympathetic to her plight and forgive her. In response, Amahl then pledges his crutch, the only thing he owns, and in so doing is healed by a miracle. He then leaves with the Magi on their quest.

Barnes said this production is not a run-of-the-mill

“popcorn” production. He commended Cormier for putting together a talented cast, with many of the performers coming from Boston. And Cormier herself, he said, is an excellent performer.

Just Love to Sing! is a nonprofit meant to educate and entertain the public about the operatic arts. Cormier leads the organization and production as well as starring in the show. A seasoned opera singer, Cormier has performed at myriad regional and international opera houses, including the Ash Lawn Festival, Indianapolis Opera, Opera Iowa, Des Moines Metro Opera, Vienna Chamber Opera, St. Petersburg Opera (Zazerkalya) in Russia, and Cape Cod Opera.

One of the highlights will include being able to perform with her son Christopher Martinez. The teen will be playing the lead role of Amahl.

“We certainly don’t want Amahl to be one level,” she said. “So we’re trying to make sure we incorporate a lot of the childlikeness in someone that would be 8, 9, 10 years old. And because Amahl is helping his mom, they are very connected, and their relationship in the opera is a very tight relationship. There’s a really strong bond there. And since he’s my son, it works out pretty tight.”

Not only is her son in the show, but her husband, Carlos Martinez, is the music director of Just Love to Sing! The Texas native is an accomplished musician. Currently he teaches music for the Shaker Regional School District, runs a private vocal and piano studio in Manchester, and produces the local cable television show entitled Mr. M’s Wonderful World of Music.

“It’s nice to go out with the family, so to speak,” Cormier said.

Cormier said to add another twist to the show, the performance will kick off with carol singers in Victorian costume as the audience enjoys tea and light refreshments.

“Since the opera is one act, we wanted to offer people a full night if they were going to come out,” she said.

“So what we are going to do is offer a tea party onstage and in the house. We’re going to have St. Nicholas there and our Dickens Carolers performing, and they’re really splendid in the most beautiful handmade costumes. . . . It’s just a pretty show to look at.”

The show is tomorrow and starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Franklin Opera House, located at 316 Central St. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and children. For information, visit franklinoperahouse.org or call 934-1901.

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