In 1951 television was very new. Programming concepts were new. Viewing was new. Ed Sullivan was hot. It would be 13 years before the Beetles appeared on his show. Out of this TV primordial soup came an astonishing show: Amahl and the Night Visitors. Producers at NBC believed there was a market for opera on television, and that a live performance would succeed. Most operas were too long for the already established schedules of hour blocks interspersed with commercials. Anticipating a large audience for Christmas programs, they commissioned a new opera. It was to be on a Christmas theme, fit on the stage in NBC production studios and suitable for family viewing. They turned to Gian Carlo Menotti. Inspired by Hieronymous Bosch's painting, The Adoration of the Magi, Menotti nailed the assignment. Amahl and the Night Visitors was the first production on the Hallmark Hall of Fame and was shown for many years during the Christmas holiday. Here is the Bosch painting
And here, for a trip down memory lane, is the original broadcast with an introduction by Menotti from the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the Bosch painting hangs.