Silent Night

Past Production

Silent Night is the powerful, true story of the spontaneous Christmas truce between French, British and German soldiers during World War I. On Christmas Eve, the opposing forces put down their weapons, come together around a makeshift tree, and play soccer matches. The soldiers’ peaceful actions are reprimanded by their commanders, but cast a lasting light on the good of humanity in the face of war.

Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun will direct. Baritone Matthew Worth, last seen in Soldier Songs, will return to Atlanta as Lieutenant Audebert. Zvulun previously directed the debut of this co-production (with the Wexford Festival Opera and Glimmerglass Opera) at the esteemed Wexford Festival Opera to critical acclaim, winning the Audience Choice Award and Best Opera Award at the Irish Times Theatre Awards. The original production won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2012.

Performed in German, French, Italian, Latin, and English with English supertitles

Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

Production sponsored by John & Rosemary Brown



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Composer: Kevin Puts
Librettist: Mark Campbell
Premiere Date: November 12, 2011

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 Parisian apartment of the Audeberts, it angers Madeleine who excoriates her husband for leaving to fight while she is pregnant with their first child. With nationalistic songs in the background, 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. When 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 on 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 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 that 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  When the truce is over, Nikolaus ridicules Horstmayer for his allegiance to the Fatherland; Horstmayer arrests him for insubordination. Anna takes Nikokaus’ hand 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 demands asylum for Anna and himself. 

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. The soldiers are taken off in a boxcar. The battlefield is now completely empty. Snow begins to fall again.

Courtesy of Minnesota Opera

Characters & Cast

Nikolaus Sprink

an opera singer

David Blalock

American tenor David Blalock is becoming widely known for his beautiful lyric voice and widely ranging repertoire.

Ana Sørensen

Sprink’s lover

Ava Pine

Soprano Ava Pine, a native of Texas, continues to dazzle audiences and critics with her rewarding vocalism and compelling commitment to character.

Lieutenant Audebert

leader of the French side

Matthew Worth

Matthew Worth is quickly becoming the baritone of choice for innovative productions and contemporary works on the operatic leading edge.

Lt. Horstmayer

leader of the German side

Craig Irvin

Baritone Craig Irvin brings a vibrant sound and commitment to character to each role he portrays. Irvin debuted the role of Horstmayer with Minnesota Opera.

Jonathan Dale

leader of the Scottish side

Alexander Sprague

British tenor Alexander Sprague studied at The National Opera Studio and The Royal Academy of Music, and is now in demand across the U.K. and Europe.

Father Palmer

the Scottish priest

Troy Cook

American baritone Troy Cook made notable debuts in past seasons, including creating the role of John Cree in the world premiere of Elizabeth Cree with Opera Philadelphia.


Lt. Audebert’s aide-de-camp

Andrew Wilkowske

Baritone Andrew Wilkowske  displays an engaging combination of musical talent and masterful stage presence in any role that he sings.

French General

General on the French side

Tom Fox

Baritone Tom Fox performs regularly at the most important and prestigious opera houses in the world, including The Met and Teatro alla Scala.

Lt. Gordon

Lieutenant on the Scottish side

Alex Hajek

Canadian baritone Alexander Hajek has made a mark worldwide with frequent engagements in both Europe and North America.


son of Kaiser Wilelm II

Brent Reilly Turner

American tenor Brent Reilly Turner has been critically acclaimed across the United States for his performances having a full, dramatic timbre, energetic personality and unique honesty.

Newbie Guide

The Opera Experience

Operas on our mainstage are grand theatrical experiences. You can always expect the unexpected, and for our productions to be presented at the highest quality.


Many operas are in a foreign language. Supertitles are similar to subtitles in a film, except they are projected above the stage. These translations will help you follow what’s happening on stage.

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Pre-Performance Talk

Learn about the history of the opera, the composer, and more from artists and opera aficionados. One hour prior to curtain. Free with your ticket!

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Familiarizing Yourself with the Story

Because of the foreign languages, classical music, and often complex plots, you will very likely enjoy the performance better if you spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the story and characters in advance. Some people even like to listen to the music in advance and others prefer to let it wash over them during the show and perhaps look it up afterwards.

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How is an Opera Staged?


Actors first audition for roles up to a year in advance, or for more experienced artists, directors also invite them to play a role.


Most of the rehearsals are held in our rehearsal hall, and not the actual theatre. The conductor begins orchestra rehearsals about a week and half before opening night. They have four rehearsals with the conductor, and then the singers are added into the mix.

Sets & Costumes

The Atlanta Opera Costume Shop alters the costumes to fit our singers. Sometimes they do have to make costumes if there aren’t enough, or if there is nothing that fits, etc. Once the sets are in place, the cast begins rehearsing at the theatre. The Opera production staff works with staff at the theatre to get all of the lighting and technical aspects of the production together.

Sitzprobe & Dress Rehearsal

The orchestra comes together with the singers in a special rehearsal called sitzprobe. There are no costumes during the sitzprobe, this is mainly to hear the voices with the orchestra. There is a piano dress rehearsal, when the singers rehearse in full costume for the first time so they can get used to wearing them. Finally, all of the pieces are put together for two full dress rehearsals leading up to opening night.


Kevin Puts

Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for his debut opera Silent Night, Kevin Puts has been hailed as one of the most important composers of his generation. Critically acclaimed for his distinctive and richly colored musical voice, his works have been commissioned, performed and recorded by leading orchestras, ensembles and soloists throughout North America, Europe and the Far East.

Silent Night was premiered by Minnesota Opera in November 2011, and marked his debut in the genre of opera and vocal works. Commissioned by Minnesota Opera with a libretto by Mark Campbell, the full-length opera is based on the 2005 film Joyeux Noël. It has since been produced and performed at Fort Worth Opera, Cincinnati Opera, the Wexford Opera Festival and Calgary Opera, with upcoming productions at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Montreal Opera. In 2013, Mr. Puts’ soaring choral works To Touch The Sky and If I Were A Swan were performed by Conspirare, and were released by the Harmonia Mundi label. The recording includes a performance of his Symphony No. 4: From Mission San Juan, performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop. Mr. Puts’ second opera, an electric adaptation of Richard Condon’s novel The Manchurian Candidate was commissioned by Minnesota Opera with libretto by Mark Campbell, and will have its world premiere in March 2015. That month also marks the world premiere of Mr. Puts’ song cycle Of All The Moons, which features songs on poetry by Marie Howe. The cycle was commissioned by Carnegie Hall, and will be performed by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke. In September 2016, Mr. Puts will premiere his first chamber opera, an adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s gothic novel The Trial of Elizabeth Cree, which was commissioned by Opera Philadelphia with libretto by Mark Campbell.



Mark Campbell

Mark Campbell is one of the most in-demand librettists in contemporary opera, profiled in Opera News as an artist “poised … to become a major force in opera in the coming decade.” Mark’s most known work is the libretto for Silent Night, which garnered a 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music for composer Kevin Puts. The opera premiered at Minnesota Opera in 2011, aired on PBS’ Great Performances in 2013 and has entered the opera repertory with an unprecedented rapidity since its premiere, produced by Opera Philadelphia, Fort Worth Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Calgary Opera, Ireland’s Wexford Festival, Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Opéra de Montréal.

Mark’s other successful operas include Later the Same Evening (composer John Musto; University of Maryland), As One (composer Laura Kaminsky, co-librettist: Kimberly Reed; American Opera Projects at Brooklyn Academy of Music), The Whole Truth (composer Robert Paterson, UrbanArias 2015), Volpone (composer John Musto; Wolf Trap Opera), Approaching Ali (Composer D.J. Sparr; Washington National Opera), Rappahannock County (composer Ricky Ian Gordon; Virginia Opera, Virginia Arts Festival), The Inspector (composer John Musto; Wolf Trap Opera), A Letter to East 11th Street (composer Martin Hennessy; American Opera Projects) and Bastianello/Lucrezia (composers John Musto and William Bolcom; New York Festival of Song, Weill Recital Hall).



Nicole Paiement

Nicole Paiement (Opera Parallèle Artistic Director, Conductor, Founder) has gained an international reputation as a conductor of contemporary music and opera. Her numerous recordings include many world premiere works and she has toured extensively in the US and Asia. This past April, Paiement was awarded the American Composer’s Forum “Champion of New Music Award” for her outstanding contributions to contemporary music. Her 2012 Dallas Opera debut conducting Peter Maxwell Davies’ 1979 thriller, The Lighthouse earned rave reviews. Subsequently, Paiement was appointed Principal Guest Conductor at The Dallas Opera. Paiement has since returned to Dallas to conduct performances of Tod Machover’s Death and the Powers, as well as the critically acclaimed and highly anticipated world premiere of Joby Talbot’s opera Everest. In Fall 2015, Paiement assumed the post of Associate Conductor for the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s Great Scott. She will return in 2017 to conduct Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw and Douglas Cuomo’s Arjuna’s Dilemma. Additionally, Paiement has been the Artistic Director of the BluePrint Project at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) where she has commissioned, premiered, and recorded works from many living American composers. At SFCM, she holds the Jean and Josette Deleage Distinguished Chair in New Music.



Tomer Zvulun

General and Artistic Director of The Atlanta Opera since 2013, Tomer Zvulun is also one of opera’s most exciting stage directors, earning consistent praise for his creative vision, often described as cinematic and fresh. His work has been presented by prestigious opera houses around the world, including The Metropolitan Opera, the opera companies of Seattle, San Diego, Dallas, Boston, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Buenos Aires, Wexford, New Orleans, Minnesota and Wolf Trap, as well as leading educational institutes and universities such as The Juilliard School, Indiana University, Boston University, and IVAI in Tel Aviv. His debut in New York was in a new production of L’heure espagnole and Gianni Schicchi at Juilliard Opera Center that was praised by The New York Times for its “witty, fast-paced staging and the director’s Felliniesque style.”

Known for creating innovative, visually striking new interpretations for standard operas as well as championing new works by contemporary composers, his work has been seen internationally in Europe, South and Central America, Israel, and the US. Recently he created critically acclaimed new productions of Semele (Seattle Opera) Lucia di Lammermoor (Seattle, Atlanta, Cleveland), La bohème (Seattle, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Atlanta), Lucrezia Borgia (Buenos Aires), Gianni Schicchi (Juilliard, IVAI Tel Aviv), L’heure espagnole (Juilliard), The Magic Flute (Cincinnati, Atlanta, Indiana University), Don Giovanni (Wolf Trap, Cincinnati), Die Fledermaus (Dallas, Kansas City), Falstaff (Wolf Trap, Des Moines), Rigoletto (Boston, Atlanta, Omaha), Madama Butterfly (Atlanta, Castleton Festival), Tosca (National Theatre Panama, Atlanta) and Dialogues of the Carmelites (IVAI Tel Aviv), among many others.