Minnesota Opera’s artistic director, Dale Johnson, must be feeling 10 feet tall this week. Composer Kevin Puts was just awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music for “Silent Night: An Opera in Two Acts,” which was commissioned and premiered by Minnesota Opera (a Knight Arts grantee) this November as part of company’s New Works Initiative.
“Silent Night” is based on a 2005 film (“Joyeux Noel”) about the 1914 Christmas truce on a World War I battlefield, an impromptu cease-fire in honor of the holiday by French, German and Scottish troops fighting in Belgium, near the French border. In yesterday’s press release by Minnesota Opera announcing the prize, Johnson says, when he saw it, he was moved by the story in the film and thought it would make a great opera: “When I first heard Kevin’s orchestral music on a CD in my car, I had to pull over immediately. Though he’d never written an opera before, I knew immediately he was the one for this job.”
The large, enveloping production — with a chorus of 48 and a 67-piece orchestra — was enthusiastically received by local critics and audiences throughout its run at the Ordway. Ambitious in both its musical complexity and scale, Puts’ score for the opera is a formidable debut in the form, and it marries beautifully with the work’s contemplative polyglot text, written by award-winning librettist Mark Campbell.
Kudos and congratulations are due first, of course, to Puts. But this is also tremendous recognition for the investment and efforts Minnesota Opera has put behind not only this project, but the umbrella program as well — the company’s seven-year, $7 million New Works Initiative committed to the creation and ongoing production of contemporary American operatic works.
It’s a well-deserved feather in Minnesota Opera’s cap, especially considering the fact that this prize comes at the close of an already acclaimed season for the company. All of which bodes well for next year’s production of “Doubt,” a new opera by composer Douglas J. Cuomo with a libretto by the Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning playwright behind the story’s iterations on stage and film, John Patrick Shanley. Minnesota Opera’s world premiere of “Doubt,” its second New Works Initiative commission, will open January 2013 and serve as the centerpiece of the company’s 50th anniversary season.
Read an article on Minnesota Opera’s world premiere of “Silent Night: An Opera in Two Acts,” written for Knight Arts when the production opened last November. Find more information about Minnesota Opera: http://www.mnopera.org/.