Opera San Jose gives the West Coast premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Silent Night by Kevin Puts, beginning this Saturday. It retells the story of the 1914 Christmas Truce that (briefly) interrupted the carnage of World War I. Music Director Joseph Marcheso says it’s based on the French film from 2005, Joyeux Noel, and keeps a cinematic approach to the story.
The original production from Minnesota Opera had a larger orchestra than could be accomodated in the pit at the California Theatre, but General Director Larry Hancock really wanted to bring it to San Jose, and so contacted Kevin Puts. “And he wrote a reduction that removed very little,” Joseph Marcheso explains. “He really wants to accommodate, because this isn’t something unique to OSJ; regional theaters would love to do this, but there are certain limitations that even if they raised all the money in the world they couldn’t overcome.” In addition to the slightly smaller forces, they also had the challenge of recreating the front lines of the war. “There’s a desire to be as cinematic as possible, to flash cut to this group, and flash cut to this group. And the original production solved that by having a rotating set. And we have approached it by having trenches that we would move in different permutations, so that you would know from the trench which group we’re talking about.” He says this is the most ambitious project that OSJ has undertaken, and they’re excited to be part of the work’s history. “It’s not often that we get to be advocates for pieces. Usually people come in and they already know that they like the piece. But an opera at this stage in its trajectory, every performance matters because in every performance you convert new people to it.”