Overview

Silent Night won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2012 and has been capturing the hearts of opera audiences around the world. Loosely based on events from World War I, Silent Night depicts a spontaneous cease-fire between French, Scottish and German soldiers on Christmas Eve, 1914. Sung in the multiple languages of its characters. This production is derived from the 2005 French film, Joyeux, Noel.

Music by Kevin Puts
Libretto by Mark Campbell, based on the 2005 film Joyeux Noël
Premiere: St. Paul, Minnesota, 2011

Running time: About 2:25 (including intermission)
Sung in English, German, French, Italian and Latin with projected English supertitles

Patrons’ Reviews

Honoring our Veterans

Michigan Opera Theatre would like to thank the following partners for the service they provide to veterans in our community and for working with us to honor our veterans in conjunction with each Silent Night performance.

Ford Veterans Network Group and Southwest Solutions

Ford Veterans Network Group has a long standing partnership with Southwest Solutions, a local charity that does exemplary work supporting veterans. Southwest Solutions is honored to work with 900 veterans across metro Detroit each year, offering affordable housing, workforce services, and counseling. They specialize in serving veterans who have been homeless or who are at risk of becoming homeless. Southwest Solutions’ Piquette Square in the New Center area is the largest permanent and affordable housing complex for formerly homeless veterans in the nation.

We invite our audience to make a donation to Southwest Solutions. Include, in the Comments, “MOT/Ford fundraiser for veterans.”

Help Metro Detroit Veterans

Donate using your mobile device
Text SWS4vets to 41444.

Learning Opportunities

Music from the Trenches * Nov 4 * 7:30PM * Scarab Club
Joyeux Noel (2005) film screening * Nov 10 * 7:30PM * Detroit Yacht Club
Student Dress Rehearsal * Nov 11 * 11:00AM

Wallace Peace’s Opera Talk (one hour before curtain)
Study Guide
Straight from the Front: First-hand Accounts of the Christmas Truce of 1914
Composer Kevin Puts interview on WRCJ FM
Bravo: “Silent Night” playbill

Artists

Erin Wall

Anna Sorensen

Erin Wall (Anna) sang effortlessly, with a luminous clarity across an astounding range. In the same palace scene, as she and Sprink reminisced about their first meeting, Wall proved an animated, flexible actress, first angry, then tender, demonstrating that her character was indeed a strong female presence—on a stage and in a story populated mostly by men. Her “Anywhere, anytime” was a vocal and dramatic tour de force.

-KC Metropolis

Soprano Erin Wall is acclaimed for her musicality and versatility, with an extensive opera and concert repertoire that spans three centuries from Mozart and Beethoven to Britten and Strauss. She has sung leading roles in the world’s great opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, the Vienna Staatsoper, Opéra National de Paris, and Lyric Opera of Chicago, and appears in concert with leading symphony orchestras and conductors worldwide. Recent career highlights include the title role in Strauss’ Arabella and Helena in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Metropolitan Opera; a highly acclaimed debut as Clémence in L’amour de loin with the Canadian Opera Company in 2012; the title role in Thaïs at the Edinburgh Festival; and the 50th Anniversary performance of Britten’s War Requiem with the City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra led by Andris Nelsons at Coventry Cathedral. Ms. Wall has recently sung Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Boston Symphony under Haitink and Vienna Philharmonic under Thielemann, and Mahler’s 8th Symphony with the Hessischer Rundfunk under Paavo Järvi, Houston Symphony under Eschenbach, and NHK Philharmonic under Dutoit. Ms. Wall’s discography includes Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder with the Melbourne symphony, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, Mahler’s 8th Symphony with the Berlin Staatskapelle conducted by Boulez and the GRAMMY™ winning recording of the same work with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas. She has recorded Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the San Francisco and Montréal symphonies, and sings Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte on DVD, recorded live at Aix-en-Provence.

Erin Wall

Anna Sorensen

Chad Johnson

Nikolaus Sprink

A “tenor of distinction” (Coral Gables Gazette) with “power and clarity” (New York Times)

Noted as a “blond hunk with a bright tenor sound,” Chad Johnson has impressed audiences and critics throughout his career. This season’s engagements include Lenski in Eugene Onegin with Florida Grand Opera. Mr. Johnson has led quite a prolific career as a tenor in a variety of operas across North America. Recently, he has taken on many great tenor roles including Niklaus Sprink in Silent Night with Fort Worth Opera and in his début with The Wexford Festival; Tonio in La fille du regiment with Mill City Summer Opera; Gerald in Lakmé with Minnesota Opera and Florida Grand Opera; Peregrino in Vía Láctea with OperaBend; Nadir in Les pêcheurs de perles with Virginia Opera and Opera Carolina; Ruggero in La rondine with Fresno Grand Opera; Lysander in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Boston Lyric Opera; Jacquino in Fidelio with Opera Omaha; Emilio in Il sogno di scipione with Gotham Chamber Opera; and Lance in the rarely performed Gluck opera entitled L’arbre enchanté with Fire Island Opera for their inaugural season.

Chad Johnson

Nikolaus Sprink

Phillip Addis

Lt. Audebert

Baritone Phillip Addis communicated with intelligence and superb diction. He riveted whenever he took the stage, but particularly in the work’s final moments, as he described ‘the pity of war.’

Cincinnati Enquirer

Canadian baritone Phillip Addis is praised for his creamy, bright, smooth voice as much as for his spell-binding, daring, yet sensitive interpretations. A rising star on the international stage, Addis has performed in opera, concerts and recitals throughout Canada, the United States, Europe and Japan.

Phillip Addis

Lt. Audebert

Kristopher Irmiter

Lt. Horstmayer

Dashing stage presence, acting ability and solid vocal technique.
-Opera Now

A Grammy Nominated artist who has performed in all 50 states and throughout Canada, Bass-Baritone Kristopher Irmiter is one of the most sought after low voices in the U.S. He has appeared with San Francisco Opera, Opera de Montreal, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Baltimore Opera, Atlanta Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Utah Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Opera Lyra Ottawa, Arizona Opera, and Florida Grand Opera among many others.

In addition to his accomplished performing credits Mr. Irmiter has a strong and growing reputation as a teacher and mentor to young singers.

Kristopher Irmiter

Lt. Horstmayer

Gabriel Preisser

Lt. Gordon

The star here, of course, is Figaro, played by impossibly charming baritone Gabriel Preisser. Whenever Figaro is on stage, the energy sizzles.
-Tampa Bay Times

Praised for his “matinee idol charm and charisma,” “a beautiful, luscious baritone,” and “a compelling, commanding stage presence” by publications such as Opera News, the Star Tribune, and the Houston Chronicle, Gabriel Preisser received rave reviews once again for his performance of Lt. Gordon in the world-première of Kevin Putz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Silent Night with Minnesota Opera. He then took his portrayal of Lt. Gordon to Opera Philadelphia and Cincinnati Opera. This season, Mr. Preisser reprises the role of Lt. Gordon in Silent Night in his Michigan Opera Theatre debut.

Gabriel Preisser

Lt. Gordon

John Robert Lindsey

Jonathan Dale

John Robert Lindsey’s Jonathan …achieved the most captivating musical moments…With his flexible yet full instrument rising to the role’s high dramatic tasks, Lindsey is a young tenor to watch.
Opera Today

American tenor John Robert Lindsey, whom the Wall Street Journal called “potently nasty” for his snarling portrayal of the bartender Lloyd in the world-premiere of Paul Moravec’s The Shining at Minnesota Opera, has gained a reputation as a budding dramatic tenor with a connection to German, English and new works repertoire.

In the 2016/2017 season, John Robert Lindsey will debut at Austin Opera as Ben Marco in Pulitzer-Prize winner Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell’s The Manchurian Candidate, a project he was involved in from its inception while a Resident Artist at Minnesota Opera. Other engagements include a reprisal of his role as Jonathan Dale in Silent Night at Michigan Opera Theatre and Opera San Jose, as well as a role debut as Narraboth in Salome at Opera Fort Collins, and Monostatos in Barrie Kosky’s critically acclaimed silent-movie-style Die Zauberflöte at Cincinnati Opera.

 

John Robert Lindsey

Jonathan Dale

Joseph Michael Brent

Kronprinz

Joseph Michael Brent is an artist of Michigan Opera Theatre Studio. Last season he appeared as 3rd SS Officer in Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s The Passenger, Malcolm in Verdi’s Macbeth, and first armored man in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. In 2015, Mr. Brent made both role and company debuts as Mayor Upfold in the Bronx Opera’s production of Albert Herring and Edgardo in the New York Opera Exchange production of Lucia di Lamermoor. He earned his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Georgia in the fall of 2014 with a dissertation on selected vocal works of Giovanni Paolo Bottesini. He is a native New Yorker, a proud graduate of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, and holds an undergraduate degree from the conservatory of music at Purchase College S.U.N.Y. in double bass performance. He was a student of Metropolitan Opera baritone Frederick Burchinal.

Joseph Michael Brent

Kronprinz

Daniel Belcher

Father Palmer

Daniel Belcher (Father Palmer) was his usual remarkable self. Belcher’s voice and stance transfixed the audience during the simple Prayer of St. Francis petition, which emerged in perfect balance over a dissonant orchestral web.

-KC Metropolis

Grammy Award-winning baritone Daniel Belcher has performed in many of the world’s music capitals, including Paris, London, New York, San Francisco, Berlin, Stuttgart, Amsterdam, Geneva, Toronto, Tokyo, Seoul and Houston.  With a repertoire of more than 60 roles, Belcher has championed roles from the Baroque to those composed expressly for him.  He came to international attention in 2004 creating the role of Prior Walter in Peter Eötvös’ Angels in America for the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris for which he was hailed by London’s The Guardian as “possessing the kind of powerhouse stuff that indicates a star in the making.”

Daniel Belcher

Father Palmer

Jeff Byrnes

William Dale

Baritone Jeff Byrnes returned to Michigan Opera Theatre last season as a Studio Artist. He performed the roles of Schanuard in La Bohème, 1st SS Officer in The Passenger, Old Servant in Elektra and The Bonze in Madame Butterfly. Prior to joining MOT, he performed the role of Owen Hart in Dead Man Walking with Dayton Opera, and he covered Germont in La Traviata and Balstrode in Peter Grimes with Des Moines Metro Opera. Other operatic highlights include Leporello in Don Giovanni and the title role in The Mikado with the Natchez Opera Festival, and Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro, Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte, and Pilate in St. John Passion with CCM Opera. He was a regional finalist in the Rocky Mountain Region of the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions in 2014.

Jeff Byrnes

William Dale

Alexandre Sylvester

Ponchel

A native of Québec, Alexandre Sylvestre studied at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal where he successfully obtained the “Premier Prix avec Grande Distinction.”  Recent and upcoming engagements Colline in La Boheme and the premiere of Les Feluettes for Opéra de Montréal, Bartolo in The Barber of Seville for Saskatoon Opera, Timur in Turandot for Calgary Opera and Mozart’s Requiem for Orchestre symphonique de Québec. Of special interest is Opera Lafayette’s Leonore project, performances of Beethoven’s original version of Fidelio and the version by Gaveaux on the same subject, in Washington and New York.

Alexandre Sylvester

Ponchel

Brent Michael Smith

British Major

As a Studio Artist with Michigan Opera Theatre last season, Bass Brent Smith sang Colline in La Bohème, Second S.S. Officer in The Passenger, the Doctor in Macbeth and The Speaker in The Magic Flute.

Last year he was an Apprentice Artist with Des Moines Metro Opera, where his performance as Billy Jackrabbit in La fanciulla del West received critical acclaim by Opera News as a “standout.” Colorado Music Buzz praised him for “making the most of his brief appearances.”

He received his Master of Music degree under the tutelage of John Hines. He received his Bachelor’s in music in piano performance from Hope College (Holland, MI). Mr. Smith is a first-place winner in the Grand Rapids Opera Competition (2012).

Brent Michael Smith

British Major

Ricardo Lugo

French General

With a “resonant” bass sound Puerto Rican bass Ricardo Lugo is a versatile international artist in demand on the operatic and concert scene. Having made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Un Barnabotto in La Gioconda, Ricardo has since been involved in multiple productions with the company including Shostakovich’s The Nose, Ariadne auf Naxos, Khovanshchina, Billy Budd, La fanciulla del West, Adriana Lecouvreur, Macbeth, The Gambler, and Salome. In recent seasons, Mr. Lugo has joined Michigan Opera Theater as Timur in Turandot, Alfieri in Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge, and Don Fernando in Fidelio and has sung Dulcamara in L’elisir d’amore with Opera Memphis, Mr. Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor with Boston Midsummer Opera, the Sacristan in Tosca and Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro with Sarasota Opera, and Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro with the Princeton Festival.

Ricardo Lugo

French General

Briana Elyse Hunter

Madeleine Audebert

Mezzo-soprano Briana Hunter was a mesmerizing Carmen, contributing a fiery theatrical presence and dynamic vocalism. Hunter consistently displayed impressive fluidity in her flawless “Habanera” and “Seguidilla.”
Opera News

Briana Hunter hails from Malvern, Pennsylvania where she was a student in the Great Valley School District, recognized for their strong music and theater programs. In 2000 she had the unique pleasure of working with Tony and Academy Award winning playwright Mark Medoff in a production of his play Gunfighter–A Gulf War Chronicle.

Since graduating from Manhattan School of Music Ms. Hunter has been on the rosters of many notable programs and companies.  In 2012 it was off to Beijing, China for two months with Hao Jiang Tian’s I Sing Bejing program where she studied Mandarin, coached both Chinese and Western repertoire, and performed in several Beijing venues including the city’s top performance hall, The National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA).  To close out the year she performed the role of Rachel in Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom presented by American Opera Projects in Brooklyn.

 

 

Briana Elyse Hunter

Madeleine Audebert

See all artists

Collapse artists

Production Team

David Charles Abell

Conductor

Eric Simonson

Director

See all production members

Collapse production members

Synopsis

Prologue
Late summer, 1914
War is declared. At a Berlin opera house, the announcement disrupts the careers and personal lives of international opera singers Anna Sørensen and Nikolaus Sprink. In a small church in Scotland, it inspires dreams of heroism in William who demands that his younger brother Jonathan immediately enlist with him as their priest, Father Palmer, looks helplessly on. In the apartment of the Audeberts in Paris, it angers Madeleine who excoriates her husband for leaving to fight while she is pregnant with their first child. Amid the fervor of nationalistic songs, the men prepare to leave for war.

Act I
In and around a battlefield in Belgium, near the French border, around Christmas Scene one – December 23, late afternoon
A horrific battle is fought between the Germans and the French and Scottish. An attempt by the French and Scottish soldiers to infiltrate the German bunker fails miserably; corpses begin to pile up in the no-man’s land between the three bunkers. Nikolaus is seen violently engagingin combat–stabbing a man to death and growing in despair at the violence. William is shot, Jonathan must leave his brother behind to die.

Scene two – December 23, evening
In the Scottish bunker, Lieutenant Gordon assesses the casualties after the battle. Father Palmer attempts to offer solace to Jonathan in prayer. In the French bunker, Lieutenant Audebert discovers the French General waiting in his makeshift office, who reprimands him for surrendering and threatens him with a transfer. The General leaves and Audebert laments the loss of his wife’s photograph to his aide-de-camp, Ponchel. When he is alone, Audebert tallies the casualties in the last battle, while missing Madeleine and their child who he has not yet seen. He sings of needing sleep, a sentiment echoed by all of the soldiers. As it starts to snow, covering the corpses in no man’s land, the soldiers slowly begin to sleep. Alone in the German bunker, Nikolaus reveals to an imagined Anna his despair about war.

Scene three – December 24, morning
In the German bunker, crates have arrived – and little Christmas trees from the Kronprinz. Lieutenant Horstmayer criticizes the Kronprinz for not sending them more useful presents, like ammunition and reinforcements. He receives a directive from headquarters that Nikolaus has been ordered to sing at the nearby chalet of the Kronprinz, along with one Anna Sørensen. Nikolaus departs for the chalet, excited that he will be reunited with Anna again after many months apart. The French soldiers have received crates of wine, sausages and chocolates from the quartermaster and open them jubilantly. Ponchel, a barber by trade, brings coffee to Audebert and sits him down for a haircut. He is reminded of having coffee with his mother every morning, who lives only an hour away by foot. The alarm clock he carries next to his heart at all times (which shielded him from a bullet in the last battle) rings at ten o’clock every morning to remind him of their daily meeting. In the Scottish bunker, crates of whiskey have arrived from home. Jonathan writes a letter to his mother, not mentioning his brother’s death.

Scene four – December 24, early evening
At the chalet of the Kronprinz, Anna and Nikolaus perform a duet. Following the performance, they steal a few moments on a terrace outside. Anna notices the cruel effect war has had on her lover’s spirit. She has arranged for Nikolaus to spend the night with her and is angry when he says he must return to his fellow soldiers. She vows to accompany him back to the battlefield.

Scene five – December 24, night
In the French bunker, Gueusselin volunteers to infiltrate the German bunker, and with several grenades, sidles onto noman’s land. The Scottish soldiers drink whiskey and play a bagpipe that another unit has sent them, as Father Palmer sings a sentimental ballad about home. The men in the other bunkers hear the song and react to it with sadness, caution and annoyance. Nikolaus arrives; his fellow soldiers greet him with cheers and applause and gasp in amazement at seeing Anna with him. When the song in the Scottish bunker is finished, Nikolaus sings a rousing Christmas song loudly in response and midway through the bagpiper begins to accompany. Emboldened, Nikolaus stands atop the bunker raising a Christmas tree as a gesture of friendship. Against the protestations of their superiors, the soldiers from all bunkers stand. Nikolaus bravely moves to the center of no-man’s land. Gueusselin abandons his plan to grenade the German bunker. Eventually, the three lieutenants, waving a white flag of truce, agree to a cease-fire … but only on Christmas Eve. The soldiers slowly and cautiously move toward each other. They share their provisions, their photos and their names. Anna appears and all of the soldiers are awed by the sight of a woman. Father Palmer has set up a makeshift church and celebrates mass with the men, while Jonathan finds his brother’s body and vows revenge. Father Palmer finishes the mass and urges the men to “go in peace” as bombs explode menacingly in the distance.

Act II
Scene one – December 25, dawn
The following morning, Jonathan tries to bury his brother. Because the truce is officially over, two German sentries are prepared to shoot him, although Father Palmer and Lieutenant Gordon intervene. Looking on, Horstmayer proposes that it may indeed be time to bury all of the dead. The three lieutenants meet and decide over coffee that the truce will be extended until after the dead in no-man’s land are buried.

Scene two – December 25, late morning, early afternoon
The soldiers pile up the corpses, Father Palmer delivers last rites and the soldiers form a processional bearing the wagon of bodies away. Anna looks on with Nikolaus and promises that he will not suffer the same fate.

Scene three – December 25, all day
In the meantime, news of the cease-fire has reached headquarters, and the British Major, the Kronprinz and the French General all react in anger and disbelief. They declare that they will punish the soldiers for their betrayal.

Scene four – December 25, evening
Lieutenant Horstmayer prepares to return to war and Nikolaus berates him for his allegiance to the Fatherland. Horstmayer arrests Nikolaus for insubordination, but Anna takes his hand firmly and leads him across no-man’s land as Horstmayer orders his men to shoot, but no one moves. Reaching the French bunker unharmed, Nikolaus regains his voice and demands asylum for he and Anna.

Scene five – December 26, late morning
The British Major admonishes the Scottish soldiers for participating in the Christmas truce. They are to be transferred to the front lines. When a German soldier is seen crossing the battlefield, the Major orders him killed. Jonathan complies and dispassionately shoots the man.

Lieutenant Audebert returns to his small office and discovers the French General there. The General tells Audebert that he will be transferred to Verdun as punishment for consorting with the enemy and that his unit will be disbanded. Audebert informs the French General – his father – that he has learned he has an infant son named Henri. They vow to survive the war for the child’s sake.

The Kronprinz angrily announces that the German soldiers are to be deployed in Pomerania as punishment. As the soldiers are taken off in a boxcar, they hum the Scottish ballad they heard in the bunker on Christmas Eve. The battlefield is now completely empty. Snow begins to fall again.

Read more 

Read less 

Sponsors