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The Sunday Opera: Pfitzner's "Das Christ-Elflein" and Conte's "The Gift of the Magi"

Join us for a charming fantasy for the holiday on this week’s Sunday Opera (12/26 3:00 p.m.) with Hans Pfitzner’s “Das Christ-Elflein.”  Elflein (Helen Donath) is curious about the world of Man and especially about the traditions of Christmas.  Her forest friend, Tannengreis (Alexander Malta), who is an old fir tree, warns her to stay away from humans because they are evil.   Elflein, however, is still curious and decides to find out by heading to the house of Herr von Gumpach (Paul Hansen) where his daughter is seriously ill.  Along the way, Elflein meets the Christ Child (Janet Perry) who is going to the same home.   Once there, Elflein meets Knect Ruprecht (Nikolaus Hillebrand) who is a helper of St. Nicholas, and he has come to bring a Christmas tree to the family.  Once in the house, Elfein finds that the Christ Child is there to take Gumpach’s daughter to heaven, and Elflein is so moved that he offers to go in her place.   Since it is Christmas, the Christ Child gives Elflein a soul and takes him to heaven, and Gumpach’s Daughter is saved.   The cast also includes Claes H. Ahnsjo, Raimund Grumbach, and Ferry Gruber with Kurt Eichhorn leading the Bavarian Radio Chorus and Munich Radio Orchestra.  Our second opera is another one about selfless giving.  Based on the short story by O’Henry, “The Gift of the Magi” was written by David Conte and Nicholas Giardini.  Following the main aspects of the story, Della (Aimee Puentes) and Jim (Tim Krol) are a young couple who are barely eking out a living.   However, since it’s their first Christmas together, they want more than anything else to give each other a special present although they promised not to.   To that end, Della sells her hair in order to buy Jim a chain and fob for the prized watch his father gave him, and Jim pawns his watch to buy Della combs for her beautiful hair.   Although both are disappointed that their gifts can’t be used, they are both extremely happy to know that they are loved and valued above any human possessions.   The cast also includes Elena Bocherova and Chad Runyon as Della and Jim’s friends, and Brandon Smith, Aaron DiPiazza, and Gary Sorenson as the voices of the Magi.   Nicole Palement conducts the San Francisco Conservatory New Music Ensemble.

Stay tuned after the operas for more music of the season performed by Joan Sutherland, Kathleen Battle, Frederica van Stade, Eileen Farrel, The Kings Singers, and more.

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.