Silent Night is a very new opera, commissioned by four opera houses, and done two nights here in Cincinnati this season. It is the story of Christmas Eve, 1914, on the front lines between Germany, opposed by a Scottish regiment and the French. The soldiers came out of their trenches, shared food and drink, sang Christmas Carols and, in the morning, buried their dead.
Which drove their commanders crazy, and ended as the groups were transferred quickly either home or to other theaters of the war.
That opening scene was an incredible battle – the noise, the sounds of the weapons, the bodies falling were all reality. Then the back stories, showing us the main characters, and how they came to be in this fateful place. The first act ended with the troops (and eventually their commanders, creeping out of their trenches to talk, to sing, to share French libations.
In the second act, the burials, the commanders talking – and and and least one in each group snitching to far away leaders. The futility of war and its wastefulness were achingly evident. And a German love story played out through both acts.
All this was set to music which told the tale side by side with the action, beautifully, powerfully and happily sung. For there is a lot of humor in this opera, and so much generosity and humanity.
How can we still be making war? Why are the Israelis and Palestinians going through their endless motions, over and over again? Why is Putin pretending to be guiltless, not responsible for the Malaysian airliner? Why are women not in charge?
This opera does not ask these questions – but we were pondering them as we left Music Hall.