Welcome back! A gift of the Magi is one of my favorite 20th century operas. How can you not love this opera composed by David Conte in 1997 based on the O'Henry short story of the same name. The story is about a young couple without a lot of money, each wants to buy the other something special for Christmas, but is not able to afford it. So Della sells her long beautiful hair to buy her husband a gold chain for his beloved watch. Meanwhile, her husband Jim is out selling his pocket watch for a beautiful comb to put in Della's hair. The story is about love and sacrifice, and is a beautiful holiday opera!
Strangely, even thought this opera is beautiful in its story telling and through its music, its not often done. I don't know if you know this, but most people follow traditions and don't branch out and try new things! So, because its a "tradition" to produce Amahl and the Night Visitors by Menotti other holiday operas don't get produced as often. As much as I like Amahl, I love A gift of the Magi.
This was our very first opera as an official non-profit organization. You read about how MCO came into existence with Face on the Barroom Floor, but Gift of the Magi was our first production as an official non-profit! We produced this opera in December of 2013 at Remedy Coffee in their backroom. It was the perfect cozy spot with exposed brick walls to tell the story of Gift of the Magi and create the feeling of a tiny New York apartment. We had three performances with orchestra! The production was led by three women; me, stage director, Corrine Hayes, and conductor, Rachel Grub. I sang the role of Della, Sarah Fitch sang the role of my friend, Maggie, Scott Beasley sang the role of my husband Jim, and Brandon Gibson sang the role of Scott's best friend, Henry! It was a really wonderful group of colleagues to work with.
I had been thinking about social causes and the idea that Della sold her hair to buy her husband something meaningful, and I was wondering if I should cut my hair at the end of the performance and donate it. However, my hair was dyed and most places won't accept dyed hair, accept an organization called Children with Hair Loss. They accept all hair and create wigs for children who have lost their hair and donate the wigs to the children! At a meeting with Susan Herrerra, who was providing wigs for the production, I mentioned my thought of donating my hair, and it just so happened that she had recently begun working with the Children With Hair Loss organization. Well, I took that as a sign and decided I had to do it. So, at the end of the final production Susan Herrera cut off 9 inches of my hair in front of an audience and donated it to Children With Hair Loss. We raised money for the organization and another Marble City Opera volunteer also made a hair donation.
Art should reflect life. I missed my hair when it was gone, but I'm so happy I was able to help someone else by donating it.
Kathryn Frady, Scott Beasley, and Brandon Gibson in Gift of the Magi 2013