In celebration of Epiphany (or Twelfth Day, as it's known by many), the Park Theatre of Union City, NJ is presenting what may very well be the first fully staged production of Hector Berlioz' oratorio The Childhood of Christ.
The work, which had its premiere in 1854, is a retelling of the the story of Jesus, Joseph and Mary -- from the Nativity to the arrival at Sais.
Interestingly enough, Berlioz (1803-1869) was brought up a strict Catholic, but as a young man he left the Church and for the rest of his life claimed to be an agnostic. Thus The Childhood of Christ is not so much 'religious' as it is dramatic, expressive and impassioned (qualities found in all of the composer's works, including the renowned "Symphonie fantastique").
The Park Theatre is known for its performances of religious and morally oriented works. In the spring of 1997, the troupe's staging of The Passion Play -- a tradition in Union City since 1915 -- made news headlines around the world when the theatre received hate mail and threats from members of the Christian Coalition and others after a black actor was cast as Jesus.
The performers in The Childhood of Christ include husband and wife Christine Alloggio Knitel and Eric Knitel as Mary and Joseph, and Edward Huls -- who has played leading roles at New York City Opera including Escamillo in Carmen and Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana -- as Herod.The director is Daniel P. Quinn, and Eric Culver conducts the joined forces of the Schola Cantorum and the Wayne Chamber Orchestra. Performances are Jan. 6 at 7 PM, Jan. 8 and Jan. 10 at 8 PM, and Jan. 11 at 2 PM.
For tickets, call (201) 865-6980.
-- By Rebecca Paller