Posts Tagged ‘NBC Opera Programming’

It was in 1950 that then director of NBC’s opera programming, Peter Herman Adler,  commissioned composer Gian-Carlo Menotti (1911 – 2007) to compose the first ever opera for the American television audience. This was no easy task and it is one of the many credits due to the exceptional talent of Menotti that he made the decision to compose an opera for the child, for the faiths, in all of us.

First Broadcast on NBC, Christmas Eve 1951, the opera has become not just a holiday favorite, but one of the most often performed operas in the world. It is, in the canon of opera, a very short piece of only fifty minutes in length.


Bosch, Adoration of the Magi

Menotti was inspired, it is said, by Bosch’s “The Adoration of the Magi” which is shown in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Menotti wrote about his moment of deepest inspiration:

One November afternoon as I was walking rather gloomily through the rooms of the Metropolitan Museum, I chanced to stop in front of the Adoration of the Kings by Hieronymus Bosch, and as I was looking at it, suddenly I heard again, coming from the distant blue hills, the weird song of the Three Kings. I then realized they had come back to me and had brought me a gift.

I clearly recall holidays of the past when our family would gather to watch this always magical story unfold before us. The story is timeless; a widow with a troubled crippled child is visited by three wealthy night visitors as they make their way  following a certain star in the East. Everyone is forever changed by the time they share within the walls of a humble shelter.

The lessons this opera teaches are numerous; humility, generosity, love, community and faith are but a few. The story encompasses so many of the basic tenants of all faiths and, in those terms, is a gift for all.



A link to the entire digital conversion of that 1951 performance, including an introduction by the composer himself is provided below.

As we experience yet another holiday season, it is my hope that this gorgeous music, the story of forgiveness and miracles will further enrich your season, regardless of location, faithful belief or language.

Take the time to experience this incredible story. It’s only fifty minutes long – and it may change your life.


To view the full 1951 program, click on the photo below: 

1951 Amahl and the Night Visitors


For those more musically inclined, the link below provides the entire score of the opera.

Gian Carlo Menotti   

Amahl and the Night Visitors 

An Opera in One Act

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