MUSIC BY KEVIN PUTS
LIBRETTO BY MARK CAMPBELL
LESLIE DALA, CONDUCTOR
NANCY HERMISTON, DIRECTOR
MEMBERS OF VANCOUVER OPERA ORCHESTRA
Silent Night, based on the screenplay by Christian Carion for the motion picture Joyeux Noël, produced by Nord-Ouest Production
By arrangement with Aperto Press, publisher
Bill Holab Music: Sole Agent
Commissioned by Minnesota Opera
A Minnesota Opera New Works Initiative Production
The 2012 Pulitzer Prize award-winning opera Silent Night, composed in 2011, recounts the remarkable true story of the 1914 Christmas Truce: a spontaneous cease-fire experienced by Scottish, French, and German soldiers during World War I. We are honoured to have members of the Canadian Armed Forces with us in the production.
Silent Night begins at a Berlin opera house where singers Nikolaus
Sprink and Anna Sørenson are performing. Suddenly the performance is interrupted and it is announced that Germany is at war. Their lives are changed forever as Nikolaus is conscripted to war and must leave Anna behind. While the opera centres around Anna and Nikolaus’ love for each other we also follow storylines from each of the nations at war. Scottish brothers, William and Jonathan Dale, and their priest, Father Palmer, are dragged from their daily pursuits and suffer great loss. Meanwhile, in Paris, Lieutenant Audebert leaves behind his wife Madeleine, who is pregnant with their first child. The action moves to the battlefield in Belgium and by December, the casualties have mounted. As Christmas Eve falls Anna and Nikolaus are reunited when they are asked to perform at a concert for the Crown Prince and she accompanies him back to the trenches. Soldiers in the French, German, and Scottish bunkers begin recalling songs of home, stepping into no-man’s-land for a spontaneous truce. Once sworn enemies, they trade their weapons for merriment and camaraderie – resulting in one miraculous night of peace. Father Palmer celebrates mass and urges the men to “go in peace”. Following the cease-fire, word reaches headquarters where the generals react in anger and disbelief. They each declare the soldiers will be punished for fraternizing with the enemy. The Scottish soldiers are sent to the front lines, Audebert is transferred to Verdun with his unit disbanded, and the Germans are sent to Pomerania. As the soldiers leave they hum the Scottish ballad they heard on Christmas Eve. The battlefield stands empty and snow begins to fall once again. A plea for peace and a powerful examination of national and familial loyalty, amidst the futility of war.
Banner illustration: Roan Shankaruk