and The School District of Philadelphia Present
Kevin Puts and Mark Campbellâ€™s
SILENT NIGHT Final Dress Rehearsal Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. at the Academy of Music
A Family Guide to
The Opera Company of Philadelphia believes the family is the most important foundation to learning. Let your kitchen table become a classroom where your children can build their knowledge of opera and the humanities. As you join in the teaching and learning process with your children, watch their eyes sparkle. Opera is a communal celebration, so too should be your children’s education. Pennsylvania’s standards in education call for students to demonstrate what they know and are able to do and children need to share what they have discovered or learned. Thus, the title of our program is Sounds of Learning™. It reflects our belief that children must actively be engaged in sharing ideas. The Sounds of Learning™ workbook and teacher guide will integrate with the local core curriculum in many ways. Just as opera is a uniquely integrated art, combining orchestra, voice, literature, drama, and dance, Sounds of Learning™ is an interdisciplinary, student-centered program. The goal of the Active Learning sections is to have your children engaged in the process of selfteaching. They will be able to show how they have gained insights into their learning by drawing, writing, and discussing the issues most relevant to them. In this way, students demonstrate what they can do with what they know. In reading the libretto, or script, we suggest that you and your family members take turns reading particular roles. Dr. Ellen Winner of Harvard’s Project Zero found that “drama helps to build verbal skills that transfer to new materials,” and helps improve not only students’ reading skills but also “oral and written language development.” (Journal of Aesthetic Education, v34, #3/4, Fall/Winter, 2000.) In preparing for the opera, we suggest you visit the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s website for links to online videos, artist interviews and more on this opera. We are grateful to librettist Mark Campbell for permitting the inclusion of his libretto in this guide.
Goals and Objectives of Sounds of Learning™ • Improve literacy achievement by using the opera’s libretto to teach lessons across the curriculum • Understand the plot, characters, and their motivations of the opera • Learn something about the composer and others involved in writing the opera • Make a connection to the historic and social context of the story • Know some key musical elements, recognize certain melodies, differentiate between voices • Understand the role music plays in expressing emotions and heightening the dramatic experience • Understand the various elements of producing opera and the functions of those involved; e.g. conductor, director, set designer, technical crew, etc. • Develop the ability to make inferences about the opera, production, and performance • Relate incidents in the opera to those of the present day
Best Practices in Arts Education is sponsored by Pennsylvania Alliance for Arts Education, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Contents Opera 101: Getting Ready for the Opera 2 3 4 5 6 7
Tips for Your Trip Philadelphiaâ€™s Academy of Music The Then and Now of Opera Opera - Online! The Language of Opera GAME: Connect the Opera Terms
Relating Opera to History: The Culture Connection 8 9 10 12
Turning a Movie into Silent Night What in the World? Historic and Cultural Events of 1914 The Chrismas Truce Trench Warfare
Libretto and Production Information 14 15
Silent Night: Synopsis Silent Night: Libretto
Check out our website for additional content! Here youâ€™ll find more information on the opera, its themes, lessons, and links to even more fascinating material. See page 37 for more details.
Tips for Your Trip
There’s nothing as exciting as attending an opera in the Academy of Music. You’ll be a guest at the final dress rehearsal of Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell’s Silent Night. Here’s what you’ll need to know about attending the opera! You may notice several computer monitors and a large table spread out over the seats in the center of the first floor of the auditorium. Seated in this area is the production team: Director, Assistant Director, Costume Designer, Lighting Designer, and Set Designer, among others. They’ll be taking notes and communicating via headsets with the many people backstage who help make all of the operatic magic happen. They’ll be able to talk to the crew so changes can be made right away. Should things goes wrong, the rehearsal might be stopped or a part repeated to make sure that it is perfect.
SHOW SOME R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Unlike actors on television or in the movies, performers onstage are very aware of the audience. They want to share their love of performing with you. Everything you do in the audience affects what happens on stage. You can show them how much you appreciate their work and the opportunity to come to the rehearsal by being as quiet as possible. Show your respect for the cast, musicians, the production team, and everyone in the theater by not talking. Give the artists and the production your full attention!
ACTIVE LEARNING The picture on this page shows several patrons and famous opera characters on their way to attend an opera at the theater. Now picture yourself in their shoes. On a separate piece of paper, write a story as if you are one of these people. Think about your trip to the performance. What will the opera be like? You may want to mention going to the Academy of Music or attending the opera. What will you wear? How will you and your classmates act? At what time will you meet your classmates? How many classmates will attend? Will you have a special dinner before the opera? If so, where? Will the opera be exciting and entertaining? Share your thoughts here and compare your stories with your classmates.
Here’s a list of DOs and DON’Ts so that everyone in the theater can enjoy the opera:
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Use the bathrooms before the rehearsal begins or at intermission. Enter and exit the theater in an orderly fashion. Turn off your cell phones and all electronic devices. Applaud after the arias; you can shout “Bravo!” for the men and “Brava!” for the women. Enjoy the rehearsal. You’ve worked too hard preparing for the rehearsal not to!
Don’t Forget... No food, gum or beverages are allowed inside the theater. Photographs or video footage may not be taken during the performance. No talking or whispering during the performance. No shoving, jumping, running, or spitting in the theater. Please obey the theater ushers and staff. Keep all objects to yourself. If you throw something, you might hurt someone and cause a disruption in the rehearsal. It is grounds for removal from the auditorium. MAKE YOUR SCHOOL PROUD!
Academy of Music You will attend the opera at Philadelphia’s Academy of President Franklin Pierce Music, which is the country’s 1804-1869 oldest grand opera house still used for its original purpose - performing opera! It is a very grand opera house with a huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Its four-level design was based on the famous La Scala opera house in Milan, Italy. Finding the money to build an opera house in Philadelphia was difficult, but enough money was raised by 1854. On October 13th a plot of land was bought on the corner of Broad and Locust Streets to build the opera house. In the fall of 1854 fifteen architects entered a competition to see who would design the Academy. On February 12, 1855, the team of Gustav Rungé and Napoleon le Brun won the contest, which included a $400 prize, or about $150,000 today! Within four months, the ground-breaking took place. The project was so important that President Franklin Pierce, along with the governor and mayor, laid the cornerstone on July 26, 1855. The Academy opened on January 26, 1857 with a Grand Ball and Promenade Concert. The first opera presented in the brand new opera house was Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore on February 25, 1857. Two of many operatic highlights throughout the theater’s history include the American premiere of Charles Gounod’s opera Faust on November 18, 1863 and a performance of Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly on February 14, 1907, with the composer in attendance. Numerous presidents have visited the Academy, including Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon. Prince Charles of Wales visited the Academy in 2007. Thousands of world-famous performers have also appeared on its stage, like Peter Tchaikovsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, George Gershwin, Igor Stravinsky, Arturo Toscanini, Marian Anderson, Maria Callas, and Luciano Pavarotti. The Academy was made a Registered National Historic Landmark in 1963. Since that time, a few improvements have been made to its structure. The “Twenty-First Century Project”, begun in 1996, replaced the stage floor, rigging system, and restored the historic ceiling. During 2008,
The Academy of Music’s restored chandelier. Photo by Michael Bolton
the famous chandelier was rebuilt to how it looked in 1857. All of these renovations have helped the Academy remain as grand as ever. We hope you find it grand as well!
Academy of Music Facts ›
The auditorium seats 2,897; 14 columns support the Academy’s tiers; the auditorium is encased within a three foot thick solid brick wall.
The Academy Chandelier is 25 feet high, 50 feet in circumference, almost 17 feet in diameter, and 3,500 pounds in weight. It has 23,000 crystals on it, which, if laid out, could reach from Broad Street to Rittenhouse Square and back.
The red and gold pattern on the Academy’s stage curtain simulates that of a pineapple, a Victorian-era symbol for “welcome.”
The first-ever indoor football game was held on the Academy’s Parquet level on March 7, 1889 between the University of Pennsylvania and Riverton Club of Princeton. At halftime, tug-of-war matches were held as entertainment.
1,600 people attended the first-ever motion picture screening on February 5, 1870. The audience saw a couple dancing, a gymnastics routine and more during the silent film.
Air conditioning was installed in 1959.
There was no elevator for the general public in the Academy until 1990!
For more information on the Academy of Music, go to the library and take out Within These Walls, by John Francis Marion or go online to www.academyofmusic.org.
The Then and Now of
Theatrical performances that use music, song and dance to tell a story can be found in many cultures. Opera is just one example of music drama. Have you ever wondered where opera got its start? Back in the late 1500s during the height of the Renaissance, a group of men called the Florentine Camerata got together to create a new and moving theatrical experience. They wanted to recreate what the ancient Greeks did during their legendary dramas. The result was something entirely new – opera! Most of the early operas were based on Greek myths. The first opera that we know of was called Dafne by Jacopo Peri in 1598, but the most famous opera of this early period that is still performed today is Claudio Monteverdi’s Orfeo (1607). Certain basic ingredients were included in opera: songs, instrumental accompaniments, costumes, dance, and scenery. We still use all of these ingredients today! The early operas were first performed in the grand courts of Italian nobility, but soon opera became popular with the public, too. As it became all the rage, productions became more lavish! Soon, theaters began to be built just to mount operas.
Top: mezzo-soprano Ruxandra Donose as the hero in Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice; Above: Prisoners in their cells in Jun Kaneko’s production of Beethoven’s Fidelio.
These theaters had elaborate stage machinery to create special effects like flying actors Claudio Monteverdi 1567-1643 or crumbling buildings. Not everyone embraced the new form of theater. Some critics thought that all of the stage antics in opera detracted from the music and drama. Some people even believed that seeing too much comedy in opera could make you immoral! During the Baroque period (about 1600 to 1750), Italian opera spread all over Europe. The Italian style of opera was so popular that even nonItalians wrote in this style. For example George Frederic Handel (1685–1759) was a German-born composer who lived and worked in England. His operas, like Julius Caesar (1724), were written in the Italian language and used an Italian style of music. The only nation to create its’ own national operatic style was France. Ballet played a large role in the French culture, and operas often included ballets in the middle of the opera. The most famous French Baroque opera composers were Jean-Baptiste Lully (16321687) and Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764). The eighteenth century was full of change for both Europe and opera. This time period was known as the Age of Enlightenment. People were starting to talk about new forms of government and organization in society, especially the ever-growing middle class. Music displayed this new thinking as composers dropped the Baroque era’s complicated musical style for simpler, more emotional music. In less-flashy music, characters could express their thoughts and feelings more believably. One of the first operas to use this new style was Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice (1762). In 1776 the American Revolution changed the world. A few years later the French had their own revolution (1789) and the first modern democracies were born. To match the times in which they were created, audiences wanted to see characters like themselves on stage, not gods and goddesses. They also wanted to see issues that were important to them. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (1786) featured a timely story of aristocratic class struggles that had both servants and nobility in lead roles. The ideals of the Enlightenment also came to the stage in Ludwig van Beethoven‘s only opera, Fidelio, a story about equality and freedom.
by Igor Stravinsky, 1951). American opera had a huge hit with George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (1935) which included jazz and blues musical styles. Not only did American composers embrace popular music in opera but also a repetitive, hypnotic style called minimalism. American composer Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach (1976) is the popular example of minimalism in opera.
In the 1800s opera continued to grow. The Italian tradition continued in the bel canto movement, which literally translates to “beautiful singing”. These operas asked performers to sing complicated groups of fast notes in the melodies. The most famous bel canto composers were Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868), Gaetano Donizetti (1797– 1848), and Vincenzo Bellini (1801–1835). Their operas, like Rossini’s popular comedies The Barber of Seville (1816) and Cinderella (1817), are still some of the most popular operas performed today. By the middle of the century, the Romantic Movement led many composers to champion their own national identities. As a result, operas in languages other than Italian became more common; new works often reflected pride in a country’s people, history, and folklore. German operas like Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz (1821), Russian operas like Mikhail Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar (1836) and French operas like Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots (1836) started to be performed across Europe. By using nationalism in his operas like Nabucco (1842), Italian Giuseppe Verdi became a national hero. In Germany Richard Wagner took Romanticism to the extreme in a fourpart operatic miniseries based on Norse mythology, The Ring of the Nibelung (1876), which takes over 15 hours to perform! The operatic stereotype of the singer in the Viking helmet comes from these operas. Opera in twentieth century became even more experimental. Composers like Giacomo Puccini (La bohème, 1896), Claude Debussy (Pelléas et Mélisande, 1902), Richard Strauss (Salome, 1905), and Benjamin Britten (Peter Grimes, 1945) evolved their national styles. Others, horrified by the destruction of World War I (1914-1919) and other aspects of modern life, created music that was new and drastically dissonant. These operas often explored either dark psychological topics (Wozzeck by Alban Berg, 1925), or simple and absurd (The Rake’s Progress
Today, opera is still growing and expanding. The Opera Company of Philadelphia helps to shape the future of opera by producing important new works like Richard Danielpour and Toni Morrison’s slaveryinspired Margaret Garner (2005), Osvaldo Golijov’s flamenco-themed Ainadamar (2003), and Hans Werner Henze’s Phaedra (2007), which interprets Greek mythology through the eyes of a World War II survivor. In 2012 the Opera Company of Philadelphia presented Nico Muhly’s Dark Sisters (2011) which is set in the American Southwest explores the lives of a group of women who live in a polygamist community. Although opera is one of the oldest musical art forms, it still remains and expands today. From the old favorites to the new experimental works opera continues to be a moving art form of the people.
ACTIVE LEARNING 1. Chose a composer noted above and research two other operas by that composer.
2. 3. 4.
Can you find the story of the Greek myth Daphne? How did Lully die? What does the acronym Verdi stand for in the phrase Viva Verdi?
5 Right: Act II finale if Puccini’s La bohème* Below: Soprano Caitlin Lynch in Nico Muhly’s Dark Sisters* Bottom: Denyce Graves and Gregg Baker in Danielpour and Morrison’s Margaret Garner. *photos, Kelly & Massa
The Language of Opera Act - main sections of a play or opera Aria - a solo song sung in an opera
Audience - people who watch a performance and sit in the â€œhouseâ€? or auditorium Ballet - dance set to music within in an opera
Blocking - action on stage Character - person who is part of the operaâ€™s story Chorus - music composed for a group of singers or the name of a group of singers in an opera Conductor - person who rehearses and leads the orchestra Duet - a song performed by 2 singers Orchestra - a group of musicians who play together on various musical instruments Overture - a piece of instrumental music played at the beginning of an opera Program - booklet that contains information about the opera, composer, performers, the opera company, and includes advertisements Recitative - words that are sung in the rhythm of natural speech - a bit like the 18th century version of rap
Rehearsal - time when singers/actors practice with or without the orchestra; time when musicians practice together with the conductor Scene - segments of action within the acts of an opera Types of Singers: Soprano - highest pitched female voice Mezzo-soprano - lower pitched female voice Tenor - highest pitched male voice
Baritone - male voice between tenor and bass Bass - lowest pitched male voice
Dance spectacle set to music.
Highest pitched woman’s voice.
Dramatic text adapted for opera.
Low female voice.
A drama or comedy in which music is the essential factor; very little is spoken.
Opera with dramatic and intense plots.
Music composed for a singing group.
A composition written for two performers.
A group of musicians who play together on various musical instruments.
Highest pitched man’s voice.
A musical style used in opera and oratorio, in which the text is declaimed in the rhythm of natural speech with slight melodic variation.
10. Chorus 11. Act
14. Opera Buffa 15. Recitative
M. Male voice between bass and tenor.
A piece of music originally designed to be played before an opera or musical play.
The term describing the realistic or naturalistic school of opera that flourished briefly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; libretti were chosen to depict a ‘slice of life’.
Deepest male voice.
Elaborate solo in an opera or oratorio.
Main division of a play or opera.
17. Overture 18. Verismo
Turning a Movie into
Silent Night Silent Night is the second opera in the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s American Repertoire Program, which began last June with Nico Muhly and Stephen Karam’s Dark Sisters. Through the program, the Company will present new American operas over the next ten seasons. The Opera Company co-produced the opera, which was commissioned by Minnesota Opera. Commissioning means that a person or organization hires someone to create a piece of art. In this case, Minnesota Opera hired composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell to write the music and words of Silent Night. Minnesota Opera’s Artistic Director Dale Johnson saw Christian Carion’s 2005 Academy Award nominated film, Joyeux Noël and thought its moving story of young soldiers from many walks of life stuck in a horrible war could make a very moving opera. Kevin Puts was contacted about writing the opera, despite that he had never written an opera before. He has a large body of works for orchestra, including four symphonies and several concertos for solo instrument and orchestra, but hadn’t written much vocal music at all. He was paired with acclaimed librettist and lyricist Mark Campbell, who has over 20 theatrical works to his credit. Mark Campbell said that after seeing the film he “instantly knew it would make a great opera.” He tried to remain as faithful to it as possible, but, as he said in a YouTube interview, “An opera is an opera and a movie is a movie. A lot of the process in creating this libretto involved just making the story stage worthy.” He needed to cut the number of characters, tighten up the time and place of the action, make sure the opera has a climactic scene for the main characters, and that the opera wouldn’t last more than two hours. Also, whereas there is no intermission in the movie, he had to structure the opera by adding unresolved tension to the end of Act I to help make audiences want to come back for Act II! Working with a first time opera composer, Mark chose to play to Kevin’s strengths as a wonderful orchestral composer and gave him dramatic moments where he could write gorgeous sweeping instrumental passages for the full orchestra. You’ll hear several such moments throughout the opera. Writing his first opera proved to be a challenge for the St. Louis-born composer. But now after having finished his first opera, Kevin says he’s found his place in writing for singers. In an interview with National Public Radio he said, “I'm still learning about the voice and how to write most idiomatically (or naturally) for it. My music has become
more and more lyrical over the years, so it wasn't too much of a stretch.”
Kevin Puts, composer
Mark Campbell, librettist
He also said that one of the hardest parts of writing this opera was having to compose music for a libretto written in five languages: German, French and English for the three armies, Italian for the opera-within-an-opera scene, and Latin during the religious scenes. "Getting my head around the language was the biggest challenge of the opera," he said. In an interview with Opera News magazine (November 2011) he commented, “The German was the worst. I don't know German at all." Mary Dibbern, former Head of Music at Minnesota Opera was a huge help to Kevin, who, he added, "put marks on the libretto where the stresses are. Then I would read it to myself over and over. I really had to get it into my head, so it would just flow musically." The opera had its premiere at Minnesota Opera in November 2011 at the Ordway Center in Minneapolis. The opening night reviews were unanimous raves! Opera News magazine said, “The opening night ovation for Silent Night was long and clamorous, the loudest acclaim fittingly reserved for composer Kevin Puts. It is Puts’ first opera and… With this remarkable debut, Puts assumes the central place in the American opera for your moment. Much will be expected from him.” Earlier this year it was announced that the opera won the extremely prestigious Pulitzer Prize for music. Pulitzer officials called Silent Night "a stirring opera that recounts the true story of a spontaneous cease-fire among Scottish, French and Germans during World War I, displaying versatility of style and cutting straight to the heart.” Again in his interview for National Public Radio, Kevin said, "The first thought I had when I started writing measure 1 was that it is was so exciting that I wanted it to go well enough that I could write another opera," Puts says. "The medium is so exciting to me." Rest assured, there are at least two new operas on the horizon for Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell, including an operatic version of another popular film, The Manchurian Candidate. For more information on the opera, Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell, visit www.operaphila.org.
What in the World?
Historic and Cultural Events in 1914
Listed below are some historic and cultural events that took place during 1914. Events in boldface type are items that relate to World War I; an asterisk (*) indicates events of local interest. What might it have been like to be alive at this time?
Henry Ford astounded the world as he announced that he would limit the work day to 8 hours for his auto factory workers, pay a minimum wage of $5 a day and share with employees $10 million in the previous year’s profits.
January 11 In Japan Mount Sakurajima erupted and left 58 people dead. February 25* A Pittsburgh baker, Philip J. Baur and a Boston egg salesman, Herbert T. Morris went into business when they opened the Tasty Baking Company, later known as Tastykake.
February 19 March 1 March 3 * March 4 April 9 April 22 April 23 May 14 * June 28
May Pierstorff was mailed by her parents to her grandmother’s house at a parcel post rate from Grangeville, Idaho, to Lewiston, Idaho, for 53 cents. She weighed less than the 50 pound parcel post limit. Ralph Waldo Ellison, renowned African-American author who wrote one "Invisible Man," was born. Opera singer Enrico Caruso sang his signature role as Canio in Pagliacci at the Metropolitan Opera House in Philadelphia. Doctor Fillatre of Paris, France successfully separated Siamese twins. The first full color film: World, Flesh & Devil was shown in London. Babe Ruth's 1st professional game as a pitcher was a 6-hit 6-0 win. Babe Ruth
Wrigley Field baseball stadium opened with the name Weeghman Park in Chicago.
President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation designating the second Sunday in May 1914 the first national Mother’s Day. In 1907 Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia suggested the idea of wearing carnations on the second Sunday in May to honor mothers. Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to Austria-Hungary, and his wife, Sofia, were assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia, by a Serb nationalist.
June 29 Chionya Gusyeva attempted and failed to assassinate Grigori Rasputin at his home town in Siberia. July 28 Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, beginning World War I. July 29 Transcontinental telephone service began with the first phone conversation between New York and San Francisco. August 5 The first electric traffic light was installed in Cleveland, Ohio. August 22 In France some 27,000 soldiers died in the Battles of Mons, the bloodiest battle of French history. September 1 Martha, the last known passenger pigeon, died at the Cincinnati Zoo. October 4 The first German Zeppelin (blimp) raided London. October 13 The Boston Braves won the World Series, beating the Philadelphia Athletics in a four-game sweep. October 28 George Eastman announced the invention of the color photographic process. November 13 The brassiere (bra), invented by Caresse Crosby, was patented by Mary Phelps Jacob December 24 577,875 Allied soldiers spent Christmas as prisoners in Germany. World War I was only months old on Christmas Eve 1914 when an extraordinary unofficial truce occurred in many places along the Western Front. "We were all moved and felt quite melancholy," wrote one German soldier, "each of us taken up with his own thoughts of home." German and English troops, often less than one hundred yards from each other, set aside warfare to trade Christmas greetings and sing familiar carols in two languages. The truce, probably observed by two-thirds of the British and German troops, ended with the holiday, but reasserted the basic decency of ordinary men like these British and German soldiers caught up in war.
Timeline information taken from www.timelines.ws
Group photograph showing men of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers with German soldiers in no man's land on Boxing Day, 1914. Photo: www.iwm.org.uk
The Christmas Truce
Above: A German and a British soldier share a cigarette during the Christmas Truce of 1914.
Imagine you are eighteen years old, a fresh faced high school graduate, excited to enjoy your new-found freedom. You are about to head to college, start a career and follow your dreams, but instead you’ve been drafted against your will into the military. Before you can protest, you find yourself stuck in a foreign country fighting a war that you were told would last just a few weeks, only by now you’ve been there for four long months. It’s horribly cold and wet in the trenches where you spend all of your time, waiting and watching for the enemy. You are covered in mud from the filth and slime that surrounds you. Your feet are freezing, your socks are never dry, and your entire body shivers from head to toe. To add to your misery, today is Christmas Eve and the only place you want to be is home.
Below: Enemy soldiers play a game of soccer in No Man’s Land during the truce.
In 1914, British and German soldiers along the front lines, the so-called “Western Front,” in France found a moment of peace in the middle of the World War I during a cold December night. The news of this cease fire shocked and stunned the world. Enemy soldiers laid down their weapons and joined together to celebrate Christmas in the middle of the war. The idea was outrageous and unbelievable to the people of the enemy nations, but it was a true historical event. This moment in history is the inspiration for the story of our opera, Silent Night.
World War I began after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo, the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The western world reacted quickly and assembled opposing alliances, known as the Allies and the Central Powers. Russian factions swept in to help protect the Austrians from an attack by Germany. The British came to France’s defense against the Germans, since the Germans began attacking its neighbors to the east and west. In France, the Germans would not be fought off. All forces dug into the earth to create a series of trenches where the battle would be fought. Yet, the enemies were in fact rather close to each other, sometimes even less than half the length of a football field in their respective trenches, close enough to hear some of the joking that the enemy soldiers would do to pass the time. The soldiers had heard horrible things about these enemies through propaganda, but who were they exactly? From what the soldiers could hear, the enemies sounded like typical guys who liked to joke, sing songs, and pass the time in good-humored ways. Plus, there was a growing sympathy for the enemy as the soldiers on both sides were living under the same horrible conditions in the trenches. Due to the fact that men from all sides sympathized with each other’s plights and were in such close proximity, these enemies were known to frequently interact peacefully. During daily ceasefires, soldiers from both sides would draw water in the safe No Man’s Land. Soldiers would sometimes sing songs for each other or talk about their homelands when they met near No Man’s Land. Officials sought to end this sort of mingling and soon all friendly exchanges with the enemy were strictly and absolutely prohibited. As Christmas approached, soldiers’ loved ones at home sent them gifts – warm clothes, food, and cigarettes. Some even sent small Christmas trees! On a cold Christmas Eve night, strange lights along the German trenches were seen by confused the British soldiers. They were surprised to discover that the hundreds of lights that lit up the night came from decorated Christmas trees.
Soon a strain of the Christmas carol “Silent Night” could be heard coming from the German trenches. The British soldiers heard the German soldiers wishing each other well and singing carols for each other. One soldier noted that the Germans “finished their carol and we thought that we ought to retaliate in some way, so we sang “The First Noël”, and when we finished that they all began clapping; and then they struck up another favorite of theirs, “O Tannenbaum”. And so it went on. First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up “O Come All Ye Faithful” the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words “Adeste Fidéles”. And I thought, well, this was really a most extraordinary thing - two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.” They declared an unofficial truce which continued through Christmas Day, and until New Year’s Day in some spots along the front line. Enemies joined each other in No Man’s Land and shook hands, shared cigarettes, struck up a game of soccer, and enjoyed each other’s company like seeing an old friend. They shared pictures and stories and found more in common than not. There was a practical side to the truce, as well. It gave the companies time to bury their dead, some of whom had been rotting away in the trenches for months. Enemies came together, sorted through the bodies and, in some cases, had joint ceremonies to pay tribute to these fallen heroes.
The events of the truce were not reported for a week, in an unofficial press embargo which was eventually broken by the New York Times on December 31. The British papers quickly followed, printing numerous first-hand accounts from soldiers in the field, taken from letters home to their families, and editorials on "one of the greatest surprises of a surprising war". By January 8, pictures had made their way to the press, newspapers printed front-page photographs of British and German troops mingling and singing between the lines. The tone of the reporting was strongly positive, endorsing the lack of malice felt by both sides and regretting that the absurdity and the tragedy would begin again. This unique moment of peace would not be repeated again during the intervening years of World War I which lasted until 1918.
ACTIVE LEARNING 1. Write a one page story about what it would have been like to be a soldier on the front lines in France during December 1914.
2. Visit Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia to witness an historical reenactment of the Christmas Truce. 3. To learn more about the Christmas Truce, visit www.firstworldwar.com.
4. There are several documentaries about The Christmas Truce, check out YouTube and Netflix and search Christmas Truce of 1914.
Newspapers covered the miraculous Christmas truce weeks after the event. This front page article from the British newspaper The Daily Mirror is from January 5, 1915.
Strategy to win World War I: dig a large hole, sleep, eat and stand in it for a few weeks, shoot at the enemy until they retreat, then move closer to the enemy and dig another hole, sleep, eat, stand in it, shoot at the enemy, and continue this method until they retreat into the ocean. Then you have won the battle!
In making a trench, soil from the digging is used to create raised parapets (a protective wall or earth defense along the top of a trench) running both in front of and behind the trench. To allow a soldier to see out of the trench without exposing his head, a loophole could be built into the parapet. A loophole might simply be a gap in the sandbags, or it might be surrounded by a steel plate.
The opposing forces during World War I used this strategy, called trench warfare, to attack, counter attack, and defend. Both sides concentrated on breaking up enemy attacks and on protecting their own troops by digging deep into the ground.
Within the trench are firing positions along a raised step called a fire step, and boards are placed on the often muddy bottom of the trench to make it easier to walk on. In the trenches, troops are protected from the enemy's fire. The typical trench system consisted of a series of two, three, four, or more trench lines running parallel to each other and being at least one mile in length. Each of the main lines of trenches was connected to each other and to the rear by a series of communication trenches that were dug roughly perpendicular to them.
Trench warfare involved systems of trenches, usually about 4-12 feet deep, which were never straight but were dug in a zigzagging or stepped pattern. The enemy trenches were usually very close to one another, only about the length of half a football field! As one soldier, Bruce Bairnsfather, described his experience during World War I: â€œTo give a recipe for getting a rough idea [about what the trenches were like]... Select a flat ten-acre ploughed field. Cut a zigzag slot about four feet deep and three feet wide diagonally across, dam off as much water as you can so as to leave about one hundred yards of squelchy mud; delve out a hole at one side of the slot, then endeavor to live there for a month on bully beef and damp biscuits, whilst a friend has instructions to fire at you with his Winchester [a repeating rifle] every time you put your head above the surface.â€?
Food, ammunition, fresh troops, mail, and orders were delivered through these trenches. The intricate network of trenches contained first-aid stations, kitchens, and a bathroom area. Most importantly, it had dugouts deep enough to shelter large numbers of defending troops during an enemy attack.
Building the Trenchs A trench system may begin simply as a collection of holes hastily dug by troops. These holes may be deepened to about six feet or more so that a soldier can safely stand up in one of them. Individual holes may be connected by shallow trenches. From this beginning a system of more permanent trenches may be constructed.
Above: A soldier peers over the parapet from the fire step in the trench.
No Man’s Land 13
The area between opposing trench lines was known as "no man's land". It was a very dangerous area as any soldier in that strip of land between the fighting troups was fully exposed to fire from both sides. Therefore, attacks, even if successful, often caused many deaths. The French relied on the attack with speed and surprise. The Germans relied on firepower, investing heavily in machine guns. The British lacked a specific strategy, therefore used a more spontaneous “off the cuff” approach to attacks and defenses.
Life in the Trenches Life for the soldiers in the trenches was miserable. They could be surrounded by water and all sorts of creepy and crawly things called the watery area home, like swimming frogs and large rats. Red slugs crawled up the side of the trenches and strange beetles with dangerous looking horns wriggled along dry ledges and invaded the dugouts. Because it was common to have standing water in the trenches from hitting the water table while digging them, men would frequently get something known as trench foot, where, according to one soldier, “your feet would swell to two to three times their normal size and go completely dead. You [could] stick a bayonet (tip of a gun) into them and not feel a thing. If the swelling starts to go down, it is then that the most indescribable agony begins. I have heard men cry and scream with pain and many have had to have their feet and legs amputated.”
As in many other wars, World War I's greatest killer was disease. Conditions in the trenches were quite poor, and common infections included dysentery (or diarrhea), typhus, and cholera. Many soldiers suffered from parasites and related infections. Poor hygiene also led to fungal conditions, such as trench mouth and trench foot. Another common killer was exposure, since the temperature within a trench in the winter could easily fall below freezing. Relatively little use was made of trenches in the mobile warfare of World War II in Europe. Classic trench warfare reappeared in the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988), a basically static war in which such mobile weapons as tanks and aircraft were in short supply. In the subsequent Persian Gulf War (1990–91), Iraq built an elaborate system of defensive trenches, ditches, and berms, but it was overwhelmed by airpower, innovative tactics, and the demoralization of its frontline troops. When you were younger, did you ever build a fort with pillows and blankets and spend hours with your friends playing games in your little hideaway? It’s scary to think that something so innocent is very similar to a war strategy called trench warfare.
ACTIVE LEARNING 1. Many images of trench warfare. Find an image online and bring it in to class to discuss what conditions in the trenches were like.
2. Draw a map of what a trench war zone would have looked like. You may want to do research online.
Right: German soldiers display some of the rats caught in the trenches. Above right: A soldier tries to sleep while his comrade writes home to his family.
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 criticizes 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.
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 assistant, 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 3 – December 24, morning
In and around a battlefield in Belgium, near the French border, around Christmas
Scene 1 – 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 noman’s land between the three bunkers. When William is shot, Jonathan must leave his brother behind to die.
Scene 2 – 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 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 4 – December 24, early evening
Soldiers on the front line yearn for a good night’s sleep after a hard-fought battle.
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 5 – December 24, night In the French bunker, Gueusselin volunteers to infiltrate the German bunker, and with several grenades, sidles onto no-man’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, later that day Meanwhile, news of the cease-fire has reached headquarters, infuriating the British Major, the Kronprinz and the French General. They plan to punish the soldiers for their betrayal.
A model of the opera’s set as designed by Francis O’Connor Photo: Minnesota Opera
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.
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Words underlined in the glossary are used within the libretto. If you come across one of these words as you read through the libretto and you’re unsure of that word’s meaning, you can look it up here in the glossary. act (akt) n. one of the main divisions of a play or opera. aggressor (uh-gres- er) n. a person or country that attacks another first. agog (uh-gog) adj. very eager or curious to hear or see something. allegro (uh-leg-roh) adv. musical term for fast and lively. alto (al-toh) n. the range of the female voice between mezzo-soprano and contralto. ammunition (am-yuh-nish-uhn) n. a supply or quantity of bullets and shells. anarchy (an-er-kee) n. 1. a state of disorder due to absence or nonrecognition of authority. 2. absence of government and absolute freedom of the individual, regarded as a political ideal. andante (ahn-dahn-tey) adv. a musical term meaning in moderately slow time. antagonist (an-tag-o-nist) n. an adversary or opponent of the main character or protagonist in an opera, play, or other drama. aperitif (ah-per-i-teef) n. an alcoholic drink taken before a meal to stimulate the appetite. apropos (ap-ruh-poh) adj. very appropriate to a particular situation. aria (ahr-ee-uh) n. an operatic song for one voice. artillery (ahr-til-uh-ree) n. 1. large-caliber guns used in warfare on land: "tanks and heavy artillery" 2. a military detachment or branch of the armed forces that uses such guns. bar (bahr) n. a division of music containing a set number of beats. baritone (bar-i-tohn) n. the range of the male voice between tenor and bass. bass (beys) n. the lowest male singing voice. beat (beet) n. the basic pulse of a piece of music. bunker (buhng-ker) n. a large container or compartment for storing fuel candelabra (kan-dl-ah-bruh) n. a large branched candlestick or holder for several candles or lamps. chalet (sha-ley) n. 1. a kind of farmhouse, low and with wide eaves, common in Alpine regions. 2. any cottage, house, ski lodge, etc., built in this style. chord (kord) n. a group of notes played at the same time in harmony. chorus (kawr-uhs) n. 1. a group of singers. 2. a piece of music for these. chronological (kron-l-oj-i-kuhl) adj. a method of arrangement that puts events in order of occurrence. contralto (cuhn-tral-toh) n. the lowest female singing voice. communiqué (kuh-myoo-ni-key) n. an official bulletin or communication, usually to the press or public. comrade (kom-rad) n. a person who shares in one's activities, occupation, etc.; companion, associate, or friend. 2. a fel low member of a fraternal group, political party, etc. 3. a member of the Communist party or someone with strongly leftist views. conscript (kuhn-skript) v. to compel into service. criticism (krit-uh-siz-uhm) n. 1. the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything. despicable (des-pi-kuh-buhl) adj. deserving to be despised; contemptible. discretion (dih-skresh-uhn) n. the power or right to decide or act according to one's own judgment; freedom of judgment or choice 2. the quality of being discreet, especially with reference to one's own actions or speech; prudence or decorum. donning (don·ning) v. (used with object) to put on or dress in. embolden (em-bohl-duhn) v. to make bold or bolder; hearten; encourage. excommunicate (eks-kuh-myoo-ni-keyt) v. to exclude or expel from membership or participation in any group, association, etc.: an advertiser excommunicated from a newspaper. felled v. bring down; reduce or hurt flat (b) (flat) adj. a half-step lower than the corresponding note or key of natural pitch.
forte (f) (for-tay) adv. loudly. fortissimo (ff) (for-tee-see-moh) adv. a musical term for very loud. fraternize (frat-er-nahyz) v. to associate cordially or intimately with natives of a conquered country, enemy troops, etc. futile (fyoot-l, fyoo-tahyl) adj. incapable of producing any result; ineffective; useless; not successful. grenade (gri-neyd) n. a small shell containing an explosive and thrown by hand or fired from a rifle or launching device. hie (hahy) v. to hasten; speed; go in haste. indulge [in-duhlj] v. to yield to, satisfy, or gratify (desires, feelings, etc.). insubordination (in-suh-bawr-d-ney-shuhn) n. the act of willfully disobeying an authority. jarringly (jahr-ing-lee) adv. in a manner that jars and irritates. Kaiser (kahy-zer) n. The German emperor, the emperor of Austria, or the head of the Holy Roman Empire. key (kee) n. the basic note of the main scale used in a piece of music. In the key of G, for example, G is the fundamental note; the music often returns to it and comes to rest on it. largo (lahr-goh) adv. a musical term meaning in slow time and dignified style. leitmotiv (lahyt-mo-teev) n. a melodic passage or phrase associated with a specific character, situation, or element. libretto (li-bret-oh) n. the words of an opera or other long musical. major (mahy-zer) adj. music in a major key uses a major scale, in which the first three notes are the key note followed by intervals of a tone and then another tone (for example, C, D, E). It often has a cheerful, strong sound. makeshift (meyk-shift) adj. serving as a temporary substitute; sufficient for the time being. mason (mey-suh n) n. a builder and worker in stone. melancholy (mel-uh n-kol-ee) n. a gloomy state of mind, especially when habitual or prolonged; depression. minor (my-ner) adj. music in a minor key uses a minor scale, in which the first three notes are the key note followed by intervals of a tone and then a semitone ( for example A, B, C). It often has a sad, melancholic sound. mingle (ming-guhl) v. to mix or combine; put together in a mixture; blend. natural (nach-er-uhl) adj. a note that is neither flattened nor sharpened. nigh (nahy) adv. near in space, time, or relation. Occupied Zones â€“ areas of Europe in which different countries held power throughout World War I octave (ok-tiv) n. a note that sounds twice as high in pitch as another, is an octave above the other note, and has the same letter naming it. officious (uh-fish-uhs) adj. objectionably aggressive in offering one's unrequested and unwanted services, help, or advice. ofttimes (awft-tahymz) adv. commonly, repeatedly, often times opera (op-er-uh) n. a play in which the words are sung to musical accompaniment. orchestra (awr-keh-struh) n. a large body of people playing various musical instruments, including stringed and wind instruments. overture (oh-ver-cher) n. an orchestral composition forming a prelude to an opera or ballet. pianissimo (pp) (pee-ah-nees-ee-moh) adv. a musical term meaning very softly. piano (p) (pi-an-oh) 1. adv. a musical term meaning softly. 2. n. keyed percussion instrument first named pianoforte because it could play both softly and loudly. presto (pres-toh) adv. a musical term meaning very fast. reinforcements (ree-in-fawrs-muhnts) n. an additional supply of personnel, ships, aircraft, etc., for a military force relentless (ri-lent-lis) adj. unyieldingly severe, strict, or harsh; unrelenting. scale (skayl) n. a series of notes arranged in descending or ascending order of pitch. schnapps (shnahps) n. (in Europe) any strong, dry spirit, as slivovitz, aquavit, or kirsch. semitone (sem-i-tohn) n. a half step or half tone, an interval midway between two whole tones. sentry (sen-tree) n. a soldier stationed at a place to stand guard and prevent the passage of unauthorized persons, watch for fires, etc., especially a sentinel stationed at a pass, gate, opening in a defense work, or the like. 2. a member of a guard or watch.
sharp (#) (shahrp) n. any note a semitone higher than another note. Also, slightly too high in pitch.
soprano (so-prah-noh) n. the highest female or boy's singing voice. stage (stayj) n. a platform on which a public performance is given before an audience. stanched (stawnch) v. to stop the flow of (a liquid, especially blood). stoically (stoh-i-kuhli) adv. impassive; characterized by a calm symphony (sim-foh-nee) n. a long musical composition (usually in several parts) for a full orchestra. synopsis (si-nop-sis) n. a summary, a brief general survey. terrace (ter-uhs) n. an open, often paved area connected to a house or an apartment house and serving as an outdoor living area; deck. tone (tohn) n. 1. an interval equal to two semitones. 2. the sound quality of an instrument or voice. traumatize (trou-muh-tahyz) v. to injure (tissues) by force or by thermal, chemical, etc., agents. treason (tree-zuhn) n. 1. a violation of allegiance to one's sovereign or to one's state. 2. the betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith; treachery. trod (trod) v. to step or walk on, about, in, or along. trudge (truhj) v. to walk, especially laboriously or wearily: unbeknownst (uhn-bi-nohnst) adj. unknown; unperceived; without one's knowledge. Union Jack n. The Union Flag, commonly known as the Union Jack, is the flag of the United Kingdom, as well as a flag with an official or semi-official status in some Commonwealth realms. unraveled (uhn-rav-uhld) v. to separate or disentangle the threads of (a woven or knitted fabric, a rope, etc.). 2. to free from complication or difficulty; make plain or clear; solve. unsolicited (uhn-suh-lis-i-tid) adj. given or supplied without being requested or asked for. verismo (vuh-riz-moh ) n. realism in opera. vigilant (vij-uh-luhnt) adj. 1. keenly watchful to detect danger; wary. 2. ever awake and alert; sleeplessly watchful. From Dictionary.com. Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, ÂŠ Random House, Inc. 2012.
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2012-2013 OPERA at the Academy La bohème
The Magic Flute
September 28, 30m, October 3, 5 & 7m
February 8, 10m, 13, 15 & 17m
April 19, 21m, 24, 26 & 28m
OPERA at the Perelman AURORA SERIES Chamber Opera at the Perelman
Powder Her Face
March 13, 15 & 17m, 2012
June 7, 9m, 12, 14 &16m
* The Kimmel Center Presents Curtis Opera Theatre’s production in association with Opera Company of Philadelphia
Published on Feb 4, 2014