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St. Anthony of Padua presents one-act opera Jan. 5, looking to ensure its presence going forward

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St. Anthony’s choral program will present “Amahl and the Night Visitors” on Jan. 5 at 4 p.m. Getty Images

WILMINGTON — Ephiphany Sunday is a big day at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Wilmington. Each year, the parish’s choral program presents “Amahl and the Night Visitors” by Italian composer Gian Carlo Menotti. But its future at the parish is uncertain.

This year’s production will take place at 4 p.m. on Jan. 5 in the church, located at Ninth and Dupont streets. It is the story of a 12-year-old disabled boy who encounters the Three Kings on their way to meet the baby Jesus. Amahl invites the men to rest in his home.

Amahl and the kings engage in conversation about their lives. Later that evening, Amahl’s mother attempts to steal some of the gold the kings are bringing to Jesus. Amahl offers his crutch to the kings as restitution, and his leg is miraculously healed. He goes with them to see the Christ child and gives his crutch in thanks.

The opera premieried in 1951 on NBC.

Louis Perazza, the organist and music director at St. Anthony, said this is the fourth year St. Anthony’s has done the production. There are 45 people involved and no backstage hands.

All of the soloists are professional singers who are paid their normal wage. The parish had been underwriting the cost, but that is no longer a certainty. Funding for programs like “Amahl and the Night Visitors” is in jeopardy as church attendance dwindles and, along with it, the offertory collection, Perazza said.

Instead of an admission fee, the choral program asks for a freewill donation to help cover costs.

“It is basically a children’s opera as Amahl is 12 years old and his antics with the Three Kings is delightful for children,” Perazza said. “The opera appeals to all ages and we would love to introduce this little gem to all the young families in our area and hopefully assure our production can go one for a few more years and reach as many people as possible.”