Amahl and the Night Visitors
An opera in one act
Music and Libretto: Gian Carlo Menotti
[The opera is set somewhere in ancient Judea, with a star in the sky that looks suspiciously like it might be hanging over Bethlehem. Most of the action centers around a dilapidated hovel inhabited by a mother and her child. Amahl, the aforementioned child, is an obnoxious eleven-year-old boy who enjoys playing his shepherd's pipes (not a euphemism) and being a pathological liar. Also, he's crippled and he needs a crutch to walk.]
Charles Dickens: Oh wow, a crippled kid in a story about Christmas. I can't believe no one's ever thought of that before.
Menotti: Fuck off.
[And while we're handing out tragic illnesses, it should probably be mentioned that Amahl's mother – who is never given a real name because of course not – has a terminal case of being a complete bitch.]
Amahl: [sitting outside] WHAT
Mother: COME INSIDE
[And then he goes back to doing exactly what he was doing before – in short, playing his pipes and giving zero fucks.]
Mother: I CAN HEAR YOU PLAYING YOUR PIPES SO I KNOW YOU'RE NOT COMING INSIDE
Amahl: OKAY I'M PUTTING THEM AWAY NOW AND COMING IN
[Amahl immediately resumes his playing.]
Mother: YOU LITTLE ASSHOLE
[She opens the door and steps out.]
Mother: COME INSIDE RIGHT NOW BEFORE I BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF YOU
Amahl: But Mooooooom I want to stay outsiiiiiide
Mother: It's cold and dark and it's getting late.
Amahl: But I want to keep looking at the skyyyyy
Mother: If you keep talking back to me, I swear to God I will curbstomp the shit out of you.
[He begins the laborious process of getting his crutch, getting up, and hobbling inside.]
The Audience: Any time now.
[Amahl moves two more steps.]
The Audience: No, really. It's not like we have anything better to do.
[Amahl finally gets back into the house. His mother shuts the door behind them both.]
Mother: Sooo why did you feel the need to be such a little douche tonight?
Amahl: THERE'S THIS BIG STAR IN THE SKY AND IT'S REALLY COOL
Mother: FOR FUCK'S SAKE WILL YOU STOP TELLING LIES
Amahl: I'M NOT LYING
Mother: YOU TOTALLY ARE BECAUSE YOU LIE ALL THE TIME
Amahl: YOU CAN LITERALLY SEE IT OUT THE WINDOW JUST GO LOOK
Mother: NOPE I'M NOT FALLING FOR ANY OF YOUR SHIT EVER AGAIN
The Audience: It's actually there, though.
Mother: SHUT UP
The Audience: Just sayin'.
Mother: You wouldn't believe the shit that this little bastard tells me – and most of the time, he doesn't even bother trying to make it sound believable!
The Audience: Like what?
Mother: Like the time he told me he saw a jungle cat with a woman's head. Or the time he told me that he saw a tree that was screaming and bleeding profusely. Or the time he told me about the giant catfish with wings and horns that was terrorizing a small fishing village on the coast.
SyFy Channel Executives: Aaaand we just got our idea for our next original movie... "Batfish: Rivers of Blood."
Mother: Whatever. The point is, everything that comes out of the little bastard's mouth is a lie.
The Audience: Yeah, but compared with the rest of that shit, isn't "there's a really bright star in the sky" pretty believable?
Mother: HE'S A LYING LIAR SO SHUT UP
Amahl: I'm not lying! I swear!
Mother: OH GOD HE THINKS HE'S TELLING THE TRUTH
Amahl: Because I am.
Mother: HUSH MY SWEET CHILD; HUNGER HAS CLEARLY ADDLED YOUR BRAINS
Amahl: But –
Mother: WE'LL HAVE TO GO BEGGING IF WE WANT TO STAY ALIVE
Amahl: Sure, whatever.
Mother: [starting to sob] IT'S SO SHAMEFUL
The Audience: Well, let's see... you can either keep your dignity or not starve to death. Yeah, that's a tough choice.
Amahl: It's okay, Mom! I'm gonna be the bestest beggar ever and I'll play my pipes and you'll sing and dance and everyone will give us food and money and everything will be awesome forever!
Mother: Aw, that's so sweet.
Amahl: Actually, I was just lying to make you feel better. We're pretty much fucked.
Mother: Shut up and go to sleep.
[They lie down and close their eyes. Soon, a trio of voices can be heard in the distance.]
A Trio of Voices: HOLY SHIT WE'RE SO TIRED
[Three kings walk onstage, each carrying a gift of some sort. They're followed by a page, who's carrying the rest of their shit.]
The Three Kings: ARE WE THERE YET
The Audience: Wait. Are these the actual three kings? Like... on their way to visit the baby Jesus?
The Audience: Oh, god. This isn't an opera; it's a fucking greeting card.
The Three Kings: DEAR GOD WE JUST WANT TO REST AND STOP FOLLOWING THIS STUPID STAR FOR LIKE FIVE MINUTES
[They see the decrepit old hovel and decide to stop there. Melchior, the first king, knocks on the door.]
Mother: [half-asleep] Amahl, go see who the fuck is knocking on our door in the middle of the night.
[Amahl gets his crutch, gets up, and hobbles to the door.]
The Audience: Seriously? He can barely walk. Do it yourself, you lazy bitch.
[Amahl opens the door, sees Melchior, and slams the door with a gasp of surprise.]
Amahl: HOLY CRAP MOM THERE'S A KING OUTSIDE
Mother: Stop being a lying piece of shit.
Amahl: But Mooooooom it's truuuuuuue
Mother: Not buying it.
[The kings have switched places outside. Kaspar, the second king, knocks on the door.]
Mother: Just answer the door and stop being a jackass.
[Amahl opens the door, sees Kaspar, and loses his shit.]
The Door: [slam]
Amahl: HOLY CRAP MOM THERE ARE TWO KINGS OUTSIDE
Mother: If you keep lying to me, I'm going to break your other leg.
[The kings have switched places again. Balthazar, the third king, knocks on the door. Only this time it's different, because – ]
Amahl: HOLY FUCKING SHIT MOM THERE'S A BLACK KING OUTSIDE
Mother: Don't be ridiculous, Amahl; black people can't occupy positions of power. That's what we like to call "The White Man's Burden!"
Amahl: But we're not white either. We're Palestinian or something.
Mother: ARE YOU SASSING ME
Amahl: No, mother.
Mother: Good. Since you're too busy being an idiot, I'll just answer the door myself.
The Audience: Like you should have in the first place.
Mother: Fuck off.
[She gets up and opens the door.]
The Three Kings: HIIIII
Mother: HOLY SHIT
Amahl: Told you so.
Mother: Don't be a dick. [to the kings] Can I help you?
Melchior: Can we take a nap in your house? We've been walking for like... forever.
Mother: If you're so rich, shouldn't you have some mode of transportation? Like camels or horses or palanquins carried by broad-shouldered eunuchs?
Balthazar: It's cheaper to travel on foot. These gifts we're carrying were pretty expensive.
Mother: I see. Well, I'm just a poor, starving widow with a crippled son, but you're welcome to stay in my humble home for a little while.
Mother: And maybe you could toss a couple coins my way to pay me for my trouble?
Melchior: Nnnnope. Come on in, boys!
Kaspar: WHAT WAS THAT I DIDN'T HEAR IT BECAUSE I AM DEAF
Menotti: And deaf people are hilarious! Almost as funny as the idea of a black king, amirite?
The Audience: You're a douche.
[The page hurries into the house and unrolls a carpet for them to walk in on, even though they've been walking across dirt and rocks and sand for god knows how long. Seriously, it's kinda pointless. The kings proceed into the house one by one and sit down together on a bench.]
Melchior: This place is a shithole.
Mother: Poor, starving widow, remember?
Melchior: Oh, right. I guess it's okay.
Mother: Fuck you too. I have to go gather firewood so we don't freeze to death, but I'll be back soon. [to Amahl] Don't be obnoxious, okay?
Amahl: Of course not, mother.
Amahl: HEY MISTER BLACK GUY ARE YOU A REAL KING BECAUSE MY MOM SAYS BLACK PEOPLE CAN'T BE KINGS
Balthazar: Your mom's a bitch. And yes, I'm a real king.
Amahl: DO YOU HAVE ROYAL BLOOD AND STUFF
Balthazar: By definition, yes.
Amahl: CAN I SEE IT
Balthazar: Hell no. Go away.
Amahl: WHERE DO YOU LIIIIVE
Menotti: And while you're answering this question, could you say “black” as many times as possible?
Balthazar: I live in a palace –
Menotti: – a black palace –
Balthazar: – and I own some panthers –
Menotti: – which are a slightly darker black –
Balthazar: – and also some doves.
Menotti: – which are the opposite of black. Black black blacky black black.
The Audience: YES WE GET IT
Balthazar: Can I stop talking now?
Amahl: SURE AND NOW I CAN TELL YOU ALLLLLL ABOUT ME
Balthazar: Oh joy.
Amahl: I USED TO HAVE SOME SHEEP BUT MY MOM SOLD THEM AND I USED TO HAVE A GOAT BUT SHE DIED AND I USED TO HAVE A DAD BUT HE DIED TOO AND NOW MOM BRINGS HOME A SPECIAL FRIEND SOMETIMES BUT SHE MAKES ME GO OUTSIDE WHEN HE COMES OVER AND THEN I HEAR WEIRD NOISES COMING FROM THE HOUSE AND –
Balthazar: Aaaand that's way too much information. Go bother the deaf guy for a while.
[He approaches Kaspar.]
Amahl: Are you a real king too?
Kaspar: SORRY I CAN'T HEAR YOU
Menotti: Oh, man. Comedy gold.
The Audience: [facepalm]
Amahl: I ASKED IF YOU'RE A REAL KING
Kaspar: YES I AM AT LEAST I WAS THE LAST TIME I CHECKED
[The conversation continues along the following lines:]
Amahl: Stupid question!
Kaspar: Confused noise?
Amahl: THE SAME QUESTION BUT LOUDER THIS TIME
[And that formula repeats itself about fifty goddamn times.]
Menotti: It's not actually fifty times.
Me: But it sure feels like it!
[Finally, Amahl points to a box sitting next to Kaspar.]
Amahl: What the hell is that?
Kaspar: THIS IS MY BOX AND IT IS THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE BOXES AND I NEVER GO ANYWHERE WITHOUT MY BOX BECAUSE IT IS JUST SO BOXTASTIC AND I KEEP ALL MY FAVORITE THINGS IN THIS BOX LIKE MAGIC GEMSTONES AND BEADS AND ESPECIALLY LICORICE –
Menotti: Black licorice!
The Audience: FUCK OFF
Kaspar: – AND YOU SHOULD EAT SOME OF THIS LICORICE BECAUSE CANDY ALWAYS TASTES BETTER WHEN IT'S FROM STRANGERS
[He takes a piece of licorice and starts eating it just as his mother returns.]
Mother: GODDAMMIT AMAHL I TOLD YOU NOT TO BE OBNOXIOUS
Amahl: BUT I WASN'T
Balthazar: Yeah, you were.
Mother: Whatever. Just go and find the other shepherds and tell them to bring some food for our guests!
The Audience: So you want the child with a reputation for being a pathological liar to go and tell your neighbors that there are three kings staying at your house?
Mother: Of course. What could go wrong?
The Audience: [sigh]
[Amahl hobbles off into the night, while his mother admires all the shiny stuff the kings are traveling with.]
Mother: That's a lot of gold.
Mother: Do you really need all of it? And did I mention that my son and I are penniless and starving?
Melchior: We can't spare a cent. It all has to go to the child.
Mother: And who is this child, exactly...?
Melchior: We don't really know. We're just following the star.
Mother: I see. Well, maybe I can help you out!
Melchior: I sincerely doubt it.
Mother: Oh, come on. How hard could it be?
Melchior: Okay. We're looking for a child who's the color of wheat.
Mother: That's not very specific.
Melchior: He could also be the color of dawn.
Mother: So, like... pinkish-red?
The Audience: Well, you know what they say – “Red savior at morning, sinners take warning...”
Menotti: Shut up.
Mother: In any case, I know a kid who looks just like that.
Mother: My son! Your journey's at an end! Leave all the gold and frankincense and myrrh with us!
Melchior: Not gonna happen. Help me out, Balthazar.
Balthazar: He's the color of earth. Or maybe of thorns.
Mother: You're just naming weird colors. You have no idea what he looks like, do you.
Balthazar: Yes, we do. We totally do.
Mother: Okay. Height? Weight? Body type? Facial structure?
Melchior: Um... he can command the elements?
Kaspar: And he controls the sun and moon!
Balthazar: And he can tame animals with his mind.
Mother: Now you're just making shit up.
The Three Kings: HE'S SURROUNDED BY A LEGION OF ANGELS AND HIS MOTHER IS BOTH A VIRGIN AND A QUEEN
The Audience: … Queen Elizabeth gave birth to Jesus?
Mother: I'M STILL PRETTY SURE THAT MY SON IS THE KID YOU'RE LOOKING FOR SO PLEASE GIVE ME YOUR SHINY EXPENSIVE STUFF
The Three Kings: NNNNOPE
Chorus of Shepherds: [offstage] WE ARE A CHORUS OF SHEPHERDS
Mother: The shepherds are coming!
Melchior: Yeah, we got that. We're not deaf, you know.
Balthazar: [coughs awkwardly]
Melchior: Uh... right. Except for Kaspar.
Balthazar: Yeah. It's kind of a problem.
Kaspar: WHAT DID YOU SAY
[And then the chorus of shepherds makes its entrance, led by Amahl. They all seem to be afflicted with some sort of obsessive personality disorder where they can't stop making lists, because they pretty much just sing a bunch of names for about six pages of music.]
Chorus of Shepherds: EMILY MICHAEL BARTHOLOMEW JOSEPHINE ANGELA JEREMY ETHEL ELAINE PATTI BERNADETTE GEORGE BILL GEORGE JUNIOR BARACK ROSE MARTHA DONNA AMY
The Audience: GET TO THE POINT
Chorus of Shepherds: HOW ARE YOU WE'RE DOING FINE OH THAT'S WONDERFUL
[They reach the house and stare through the open door at the kings.]
Chorus of Shepherds: oooohhhhhh ahhhhhhhh
Mother: GIVE US YOUR FOOD
[And then the list-making starts again.]
Chorus of Shepherds: HERE IS ALL THE STUFF WE BROUGHT THERE'S SOME OLIVES AND QUINCES AND RAISINS AND NUTMEG AND CARDAMOM AND TEA LEAVES AND PORK RINDS AND TURDUCKEN AND JUICY JUICE AND GO-GURT AND POWERADE AND PROTEIN SHAKE MIX AND JELL-O PUDDING
Melchior: holy shit that's a lot of food
Chorus: EAT IT EAT IT ALL RIGHT NOW
Mother: Doesn't anyone want to dance for the kings?
Balthazar: That's really not necessary.
Mother: SOMEONE DO A DANCE RIGHT FUCKING NOW
[So then some shepherds do a dance.]
Balthazar: Ooookay. Well, thanks for the food and the entertainment, but we really need to go to sleep.
Chorus of Shepherds: OKAY SWEET DREAMS
[They all leave. Amahl and the kings and the page (remember him?) go to sleep, but Amahl's mother stays awake.]
Mother: THOSE FUCKERS HAVE SO MUCH GOLD AND THEY WON'T EVEN SHARE AND THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE POOR AND STARVING BECAUSE THEY'RE SNOOTY RICH BASTARDS
The Audience: Occupy Judea!
Mother: I COULD FEED MYSELF AND MY SON FOR A YEAR WITH A HANDFUL OF THAT GOLD SO I THINK I'M JUST GOING TO TAKE SOME BECAUSE WHAT COULD GO WRONG
[She takes some of the gold.]
The Page: THIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEFFFFFFFFFFF
Mother: Oh. That's what could go wrong.
[The page jumps on the mother and starts trying to wrestle the gold out of her hands.]
The Three Kings: [waking up] WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON
The Page: SHE TOOK SOME OF OUR JESUS-GOLD
The Three Kings: WHAT A BITCH
Amahl: [hobbling over] GET THE FUCK OFF MY MOM YOU CARPET-CARRYING FUCK
The Page: MAKE ME
Amahl: [turning to the kings] Please don't let him hurt my mom! She's a nice lady when she's not stealing shit from unsuspecting guests! [turning back] I WILL WRECK YOUR SHIT IF YOU DON'T LET MY MOM GO RIGHT FUCKING NOW
[At a sign from one of the kings, the page releases Amahl's mother. She and Amahl collapse in a whimpering heap on the floor.]
Melchior: Look, you can keep the gold. This new savior doesn't need money or anything, because he's going to build his kingdom on love and smiles and rainbows!
The Audience: So... if you know he doesn't need your money, why the fuck are you lugging that heavy-ass chest to Bethlehem?
Melchior: Huh. You know, I really should have thought that through before we left.
The Audience: Yuuup.
Melchior: Whatever. In any case – the new savior loves poor people, so have fun with your ill-gotten money. [to the other kings] Let's get the hell out of here.
Mother: Actually, I think I'll give the gold back – but only because you were pretty passive-aggressive there and it made me feel kinda bad.
Menotti: And that was the first recorded instance of Catholic guilt.
The Audience: And by “first recorded instance,” you mean “I just made that up.”
Menotti: Yeah, pretty much.
Amahl: This new savior sounds pretty cool! Let's send him my crutch, just in case he's a cripple like me!
Mother: That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. You need your crutch to walk, moron.
[But in his excitement, Amahl has gotten up and is walking without the crutch!]
The Three Kings: oh snap
Amahl: HOLY SHIT I CAN WALK
Mother: HOLY SHIT YOU CAN WALK
The Three Kings: HOLY SHIT IT'S A MIRACLE
[And everyone dances around in jubilation.]
The Audience: Sooo Baby Jesus cured him or something?
Menotti: Because of his selfless concern for someone he had never met!
The Audience: Either that, or Amahl was just lying about being crippled to get attention.
Menotti: SHUT UP IT WAS TOTALLY A MIRACLE
The Three Kings: O BLESSED CHILD CAN WE TOUCH YOU
The Audience: Gross.
The Three Kings: YOU KNOW IN A TOTALLY SPIRITUAL WAY OR WHATEVER
Amahl: Sure, knock yourselves out.
The Page: CAN I TOUCH YOU TOO
Amahl: Fuck you.
Mother: Be nice, Amahl.
Amahl: Fiiiine, he can touch me. But keep it above the belt, perv.
[The page touches Amahl.]
Amahl: OH MAN I'M SO EXCITED ABOUT ALL THE STUFF I CAN DO NOW THAT I CAN WALK
Everyone Else: YEAH IT'S PRETTY COOL
Amahl: HEY MOM CAN I TRAVEL WITH THE KINGS TO MEET THIS CRAZY GOD-BABY OR WHATEVER
Balthazar: Wait, what?
Melchior: Yeah, we don't actually want him to come along with us.
Kaspar: WHAT DID HE SAY
Melchior: HE SAID HE WANTS TO COME WITH US
Kaspar: OH FUCK NO HE'S ANNOYING AS SHIT
Amahl: SCREW YOU GUYS I'M A MIRACLE CHILD AND I CAN DO WHAT I WANT
Melchior: Fiiine, you can come.
Balthazar: Just try not to get yourself eaten by wild animals.
Mother: I don't know...
Mother: Okay, fine.
Mother: But don't forget to wash your ears and wear your hat and be a good boy!
Amahl: And can you take care of my cat while I'm away?
Mother: You don't have a cat anymore. I put him in the stew last week because we were about to starve to death.
Amahl: YOU TOLD ME HE WAS OUT HUNTING
Mother: Yeah, well... I lied. Deal with it.
Melchior: Oooookay. And with that awkward bit of family interaction completed, LET'S GET GOING
[The kings and the page process out of the house. Amahl gives his mother a last hug before running after the others. He starts playing his pipe in the distance, and his mother stares up at the star in the sky.]
Menotti: ISN'T IT HEARTWARMING
The Audience: Sure, except for the part where the story of the Three Kings doesn't actually include a random, formerly crippled boy.
Menotti: Yeah... he died about two days later. Mauled by a leopard.
The Audience: Oh. Wow. That's... kinda depressing.
Menotti: WOOOO MERRY CHRISTMAS
[End of the opera.]