This week Opera Philadelphia presents the East Coast premiere of Silent Night, the Pulitzer Prize winning opera by Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell. As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns reports, it promises anything but stand-and-sing performances at the Academy of Music.
Silent Night’s depiction of a World War I Christmas Eve truce is inevitably preceded by battles on a raked, revolving stage. The model was the movie Saving Private Ryan, though director Eric Simonson admits singers can’t be dismembered onstage.
But you can stab them for a really, really long time with a bayonet. You can strangle them with a shovel. And that’s what we did… We want them to feel what the warriors are feeling.
The piece begins innocently enough with a quasi-Mozartean duet, interrupted by the declaration of war. The story traffics in similar territory to the PBS series Downton Abbey, though Silent Night was well underway first – with a fundamentally different focus says composer Kevin Puts.
The war is the main character. It’s ever present and the reason all this conflict exists.
One daring, personal touch is how much of the opera is, in fact, quiet, especially at the end. Librettist Campbell wants audiences to contemplate what they’ve just seen.
The way Kevin ends it with those beautiful notes and it’s snowing. It really succeeds at what we’re trying to say…you have to know when to use two or three notes per square inch and when you need 3000 notes per square inch
Puts and Campbell are now adapting The Manchurian Candidate, and later, will write something for Opera Philadelphia’s Perelman Theater series that’s even darker and….hasn’t been announced yet.
Well, you read it here first.