The true story of the 1914 Christmas truce

Inspired by real events, Silent Night is a dramatic opera that tells the story of the 1914 Christmas truce, when peace spontaneously broke out in the trenches during World War I.

A gruelling battle is being fought between German, French and Scottish soldiers. Each has a cross to bear and a story to tell. On Christmas Eve, 1914, German opera singer Nikolaus Sprink, now a soldier, is ordered to perform behind the front line. Back at the front later that night, upon hearing Scottish soldiers singing, Sprink responds with a rousing song, and midway through a bagpiper begins to accompany him. Nikolaus raises a Christmas tree as a gesture of friendship and the soldiers move slowly, cautiously towards each other.

Feel the incredible power of 100 male operatic voices alongside the acclaimed Orchestra of Opera North against a projected backdrop of original footage. The cinematic Pulitzer Prize-winning score by American composer Kevin Puts, to words by Mark Campbell, is a deeply emotional experience. This UK premiere staged at Leeds Town Hall is part of a series of events in the city marking the centenary of the end of World War I.

#ONSilentNight | #Armistice100


Silent Night, based on the screenplay by Christian Carion for the motion picture Joyeux Noël produced by Nord-Ouest Production
Commissioned by Minnesota Opera|A Minnesota Opera New Works Initiative Production
Music by Kevin Puts|Libretto by Mark Campbell
By arrangement with Aperto Press, publisher|​Bill Holab Music: Sole Agent

Price
From £10 to £47.50
Venue
  • Leeds Town Hall

Composer
Kevin Puts

Librettist
Mark Campbell

Running time
2 hours 30 minutes approx.

Language
Sung in English, French and German with English titles

Supported by
The Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation
The Holbeck Charitable Trust
Opera North Future Fund

Cast

Máire Flavin

Anna Sørensen

Rupert Charlesworth

Nikolaus Sprink

Quirijn de Lang

Lieutenant Audebert

Timothy Nelson

Lieutenant Gordon

Richard Burkhard

Lieutenant Horstmayer

Geoffrey Dolton

Ponchel

Adrian Clarke

Father Palmer

Alex Banfield

Jonathan Dale

Stephen Richardson

The General

Tim Ochala-Greenough

Kronprinz

Christopher Nairne

William Dale

Laura Kelly-McInroy

Madeleine

Dean Robinson

British Major

Creative team

Nicholas Kok

Conductor

Tim Albery

Director

Hannah Clark

Set and costume designer

Thomas C. Hase

Lighting designer

Story

It is late summer, 1914 and the great powers of Europe, divided into two coalitions, have declared war on each other.

In Berlin, the declaration of war interrupts two opera singers; Anna Sørensen and Nikolaus Sprink, as they perform on stage. In Scotland, William Dale convinces his younger brother Jonathan to enlist. In Paris, Madeleine Audebert, pregnant with her first child, argues with her husband as he prepares to depart for the war.

It is two days until Christmas. On the battlefields of Belgium, the conflict rages. William Dale is shot down in no-man’s land and his brother Jonathan is forced to abandon him. In the German bunker, Nikolaus receives an order to sing at the nearby chalet of the Kronprinz on Christmas eve.

The next day, upon returning, Nikolaus hears the Scottish soldiers singing from across the battlefield and responds with a rousing Christmas song. The Scottish join in and emboldened by this, Nikolaus stands atop the bunker with a Christmas tree held up as a gesture of friendship. The lieutenants of each side cautiously meet in the middle of the battlefield and agree to a truce for the rest of Christmas eve. Jonathan buries his brother and vows revenge.

News of the cease-fire reaches the commanding officers of the French, German and Scottish troops, who all decide to punish their insubordinate soldiers.

Lieutenant Audebert learns that his wife has given birth to a son and vows to survive the war as he is relocated to Verdun. Nikolaus and Anna decide to flee together and bravely cross the no-man’s land to demand asylum in France, whilst the remaining soldiers are each reassigned to other battlefields as punishment for the truce.

As the German soldiers depart the battlefield, they hum the Scottish ballad they heard in the bunker on Christmas Eve.

Silent Night
Silent Night
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