Coming Home To Amahl

By Annette Phuvan

I was never technically homeless.  I was forced to leave my home of 21 years though after my landlord decided to raise the rent by 600 dollars a month.  I couldn’t afford to live there anymore and in a month’s time had to move to Brooklyn, an hour away by train from the city. I never had to take trains.  It wasn’t a good location and I had a roommate for the first time.  We weren’t compatible.  I was suddenly displaced and lost my home.  I had lost my feeling of home.  It was a feeling of homelessness.  I dreaded coming back and staying in this new place.  I no longer felt I had a safe place of my own I could return to for rest.  It took 3 years of dedicated effort to finally move back to Manhattan and in the neighborhood that I spent much of my life.  I moved into a Breaking Ground room in the Times Square Hotel.  Although the population was mixed, homeless, those in rehab and working people, it felt like liberation.  I had my own place again and was back in the neighborhood I knew so well.  I felt hopeful.  It was a small room but it was mine own and I had a sense of home again.  

It was during my stay at Breaking Ground that in 2018 I became part of Opera On Site’s production of the opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors.  I responded to an open call for chorus members.  It was one of the best gifts I ever received as one of the gifts given by the Kings to Amahl.  Rehearsals began in August leading to performances in December.  Eric Einhorn, the director of the company and Michael A. Caiavaglia, the chorus master, lead and trained the chorus comprised of Common Ground residents with various histories of homelessness to performance level.  They did so with respect and professionalism, never condescension.  It was magical and transformative.  We weren’t defined by our material circumstance but by our coming together as a community to create an inspiring experience of love and miracles through the offering of Amahl and the Night Visitors to our audience.  

The response was overwhelmingly positive and encouraging.  So much so that Amahl was repeated again the following year.  In a brief time, it has become, incredibly, a New York tradition, becoming part of the warmth and the joy of the holiday season.  Tradition binds community.  Then COVID took over and we were all prisoners of the virus and life as we knew it shut down for 2 years.  It was a dark time and time seemed to have stood still.  The world was suspended in a bubble of fear, loss, uncertainty and isolation. Thankfully, the worst is past and we are on our way to recovering the world we seemed to have lost.  Upon hearing that On Site Opera was going to produce Amahl again this year, I was completely thrilled and elated.  It surely is a sign that life can begin again with renewed hope and we can move forward into a brighter and better future.  There will be music and beauty again.  Coming back to rehearsal is coming home again. It is an anchor for the spirit.  Regardless of the uncertainties of life, the fickle nature of fate, the unexpected sufferings we endure, it is encouraging to know that in August, when rehearsals began, we can come home again to new and familiar faces, gather with a beautiful purpose in common and share the true spirit of the holidays together reflected in the story of Amahl.  It’s good to come home again. The miracles of faith, hope and love does conquer all.

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