HELP, HELP, THE GLOBOLINKS AND AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS, de Jong Concert Hall, Brigham Young University, Oct. 15; through Oct. 22, tickets at 801-422-4322 or www.byuarts.com
If you attend this performance, you’re actually signing up for two very different operas, both by Gian Carlo Menotti. The first is Help, Help, the Globolinks! Globolinks are aliens who have invaded earth, and they only have one weakness – music. The plot revolves around a group of schoolchildren, their teachers, and, of course, the Globolinks. There’s an element of “The Erlking” to this opera in that the Globolinks emerge from the forest and silence their victims by touch. But the level of camp inherent in Globolinks places it firmly outside the grim realm of Schubert’s piece.
The opera is foremost a comedy, but like all the best comedies, it manages to provide eloquent commentary on issues that matter. The Globolinks dance eerily to pre-recorded electronic music and are a clear representation of the terrors of modernity. That they are expelled by music is of course meaningful, but a problem arises when the dean of the school can’t play an instrument or sing, nor does he believe in music’s effectiveness. There’s a not-so-subtle message here about the decline of arts education and the apparent apathy of administrators.
The performance is decent enough: the sets are exquisitely child like, the dancers are haunting and the vocalists deliver. The violins, however, could use some work. I’m sure they’ll get better as the performance progresses.
Amahl and the Night Visitors is as touching as The Globolinks is hammy. Amahl tells the story of a crippled boy whom the three Magi visit en route to the nativity. Although still a light hearted opera, it reaches levels of poignancy I was not expecting. The libretto (also by Menotti) is deeply human.
This is a much more melodious work than The Globolinks. Menotti evokes exquisite harmony from the three kings, and there’s an inescapable exoticism to much of the score. The singing was wonderful, and although Menotti explicitly said that Amahl should be sung by a boy and not a soprano in a “pants” role, Jane Della Silva was outstanding.
I fully recommend taking your kids to this performance. The two works are weird and wonderful, respectively, and they’re a perfectly adequate way to introduce children to the world of opera. And because of the strangeness and the beauty, this is a performance that will prove indelible for your children.