Silent Night (Minnesota Opera, Courtney Lewis)
American composer Kevin Puts’ silent night has, unfairly or not, been labeled “Important”. Puts’ first opera, it won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Music; had a surprisingly sold-out premiere at Minnesota Opera in 2011; and is based on the 2005 French film Merry Christmason the spontaneous ceasefires that took place on Christmas Eve 1914 on the Western Front.
Despite its pedigree and subject matter, the opera is quicker and more immediately engaging than you might think, given a lush performance here by Minnesota Opera (the play’s original commissioner) and conductor Courtney Lewis. Together with his librettist Mark Campbell, Puts imagines a series of events involving the momentarily peaceful French, Scottish and German soldiers occupying the trenches near the Belgian border. Accordingly, the music deftly evokes the range of musical idioms unique to each group, with the libretto containing English, French and German.
Lewis and the Minnesotra Opera Orchestra maintains the mix of styles with aplomb, handling the subject’s tonal and dramatic shifts with similar grace. Grief and basic human stupidity co-exist beautifully here, with plots ranging from a soldier mourning his dead brother to a stranger-than-fiction real-life event that saw a leading tenor sent by the German Crown Prince to sing at the forehead.
Lewis is blessed with a dramatically sprightly and handsome cast, beginning with the infinitely tender performance of Karin Wolverton as Norwegian soprano, baritone Edward Parks as a French lieutenant who counts the dead while thinking of his wife at the house, and the baritone Troy Cook whose priest character undergoes a test of faith in the face of widespread and senseless destruction. But perhaps the highest honors go to the Minnesota Opera Chorus, whose opulence and emotional acumen are responsible for the opera’s most moving moments.
Available on Apple Music
Composer: Kevin puts
To work: silent night
Interpreter: Minnesota Opera, Courtney Lewis