Sixteen times performing in the same opera might be too much for some performers.

Not so for Antoine Hodge, who will sing the role of King Balthazar in Opéra Louisiane's production of "Amahl and the Night Visitors," the company's annual Christmas production that opens Dec. 7 at The Church International.

And while this production will be Hodge's 16th "Amahl," it's only his second with Opéra Louisiane.

"I love this opera," he says. "I always return to it every year because it keeps me centered. I love the story, and it reminds me to focus on what's really important in life."

Hodge's Balthazar is one of three kings, also known as the Wise Men, who seek late-night shelter in the home of a young disabled boy named Amahl and his mother in Gian Carlo Menotti's one-act opera.

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The Wise Men are following the North Star to a baby's cradle in Bethlehem. An angel pointed them in that direction, saying the baby will grow up to change the world.

Joining Hodge as the three kings are tenor Geoffrey Kannenberg as King Melchior and baritone Kevin Harvey as King Kaspar. Kannenberg and Harvey are graduates of the LSU School of Music's voice program, but Hodges lives in New York.

"I usually think about it before I accept any role, but when I received this invitation from Opéra Louisiane to come back to Baton Rouge, I immediately said yes," Hodge says. "Working with this company was such a great experience last year. I love this opera company."

Hodge is not the only performer who has been a part of an "Amahl" production before. Gwendolyn Jones is again tackling the role of the mother, a part she first sang at age 16, and 12-year-old Joey Roth returns as Amahl.

The boy, who walks with a crutch, has a habit of telling tall tales, which is why his mother doesn't believe him when he says there's an amazing star shining over their roof.

Amahl's mother weeps in private and is praying her son will not become a beggar when she hears a knock on her door. In come the kings, who are seeking shelter for the night. They explain they're on a journey to bring gifts to a wondrous child and offer to take Amahl with them.

"At the end, the mother makes the ultimate sacrifice by letting her son go," Jones says. "The three visitors say they will bring him back after they reach Bethlehem, but she doesn't know if she'll see him again. She thinks he might go out into the world after that."

But she also knows a miracle awaits her son.

"When they tell her about the Christ child, she breaks down and says she's been waiting all her life for such a king," Jones says.

And that's when even cast members begin choking up.

"That always makes me cry," Hodge says.


'Amahl and the Night Visitors'

Opéra Louisiane's annual Christmas production

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, 3 p.m. Dec. 8.

WHERE: The Church International, 2037 Quail Drive

TICKETS/INFO: $11.25-$27 at operalouisiane.com

Follow Robin Miller on Twitter, @rmillerbr.