Give and Take

Opera singers Sarah Duchovnay (Della) and Ryan Bradford (Jim) play a couple who have more love than money in Hidden Valley Music Seminar’s production The Gift of the Magi.

The Gift of the Magi, presented by Hidden Valley Music Seminars as an opera, is based on an O. Henry short story about a young, poor couple who sacrifice their most valuable possessions to give meaningful gifts to each other.

It’s a special treat for the holiday season, distinguished as one of the few opera performances the county sees all year. This one is a 74-minute, four-person, one-act number sung in English with newly commissioned orchestration by David Conte, which San Francisco Classical Voice called “grand” and “lush.” It’s set in a dingy apartment in the 1930s with atmospheric lighting and sound to further seal the illusion in the barn-like performance space.

“Being in a small, warm, redwood building, people will feel they are in the apartment,” director Laura Anderson writes via email.

Its message flips the tidal wave of holiday commercialization.

“In our culture we are very driven to offer acceptance [and] love through material means,” Anderson continues. “However, what we really need, we can’t get from the material; we need to be recognized, to be loved, to be seen.”

And there is a twist at the end, one that wrings joy – and usually tears – from its audience. Joy and tears. Sounds like the holidays.

The Gift of the Magi 7:30pm Dec. 5, 11, 18, 19 and 2:30pm Dec. 6 and 20, at Hidden Valley Music Seminars, 104 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley. $35. 659-3115,

Walter Ryce has been an arts writer, calendar editor, culture columnist, sometime photographer, and one-time web content coordinator for the Monterey County Weekly. He began working at the paper, which is based in his hometown of Seaside, in 2007.

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