Next Christmas Eve will mark the Centennial of the so-called “Christmas Truce”, which occured spontaneously at various places along the Western Front on Christmas Eve, 1914. British, French and German soldiers unexpectedly broke out into carols, left the trenches and— to the subsequent outrage of their superior officers (who weren’t present in the trenches themselves, of course, being snugly & safely ensconced far behind the lines)— met in No-Man’s-Land with white flags, exchanged impromtu gifts, shared snorts of rum & brandy, tried on one another’s helmets, and even indulged in the odd game of soccer.
If you have not yet had an opportunity to watch the opera, SILENT NIGHT, by Kevin Puts, based on the original event, and the 2005 French film “Joyeux Noël,” try to do so this Christmas. Check your local PBS listings, or buy the DVD (when it comes out: it apparently hasn’t been released yet). SILENT NIGHT played a sold-out premier run in 2011 at the Minnesota Opera, and won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for music.
The set is powerfully evocative, the details grittily realistic and historically accurate, and the music nothing short of glorious, as can be seen in the brief segment below:
If you are a student of the First World War but ignorant of opera, this might be the time to broaden your horizons into higher culture. If, on the other hand, you are already an opera devotee, but ignorant of the events of 1914-1918, this could be the perfect time to deepen your acquaintance with the premier shaping event of the twentieth century.