Alliance was able to celebrate the centennial of WWI Armistice by attending the dress rehearsal of the Washington National Opera’s production of Kevin Puts’ and Mark Campbell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Silent Night.
Based on the true story of a spontaneous wartime ceasefire, an event depicted in the 2005 film Joyeux Noel, there was a Christmas Eve of truce when Scottish, German, and French soldiers climbed out of their trenches and found each other in a No Man’s Land where they shared victuals, song, and stories.
Please share your thoughts on the questions below, responses to the production, and any questions you might have for Mark Campbell, the librettist, who has so generously made himself available to our group.
– What do you think the choice to write singing parts in different languages added to the work (English, French, German, Italian, and Latin) — richness or difficulties — or both?
– Here we have a modern opera. How would you describe the musical landscape of Kevin Puts’ compositions, and did they advance the story and satisfy your emotional experience of the story?
– Did the design of the horizontal “layering” of the three different armies upstage and the staging help clarify the story or hamper your experiencing of the relationships?
– Would you like to single out a singer or character you felt stood out in a special light for you in bringing you into the story?
And Questions for Mark Campbell:
– There is a lot of humor in your adaptation of the film, what draws you to writing comic scenes or at least encounters about one of the most terrible periods of history, the war that was to end all wars?
– Although you call the opera Silent Night, clearly you both thought the work would be stronger without including any recognizable carols, even orchestrating them in creative ways. Why?
– Was it hard to write a libretto in several different languages? Was there some thought that certain expressions/emotions work better in a given language? What felt most challenging? What was most satisfying for you, from the librettist’s point of view?
– You said that in every production of this work you have seen, something special has stood out? Could you tell us what if anything stood out for you in this production?