Yesterday I sat on a folding chair inside the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park blinking my eyes. Several voices singing divinely about our essential humanity had nearly brought me to tears.
I’d just enjoyed a short but stirring preview of San Diego Opera’s upcoming production of All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914. This unique chamber opera is a mixture of the spoken word and male singing unaccompanied by instruments.
Together voices relive a profound moment during the horrific trench warfare of World War I, when “soldiers from France, England, and Germany ventured into no-man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Soldiers exchanged food and gifts, swapped prisoners and performed burials, and played football and sang Christmas carols.”
The inspirational opera All is Calm contains no original music. It is composed entirely from music that was popular just before the onset of World War I, hymns and timeless Christmas carols. The actual letters of common soldiers and orders from officers are among the historical texts that are interwoven with song. Young soldiers from both sides, manning hellish trenches that were infested with rats and lice, made even more miserable with winter rain and freezing snow, are moved to walk out into the field of fire, risking their lives, to share a moment of common humanity.
The opera will be staged in early December in downtown’s Balboa Theatre, a smaller and more intimate setting than the San Diego Civic Theatre, where San Diego Opera usually performs. There is some singing in French and German, but the opera is primarily in English. Silent Night is sung in different languages by many voices, which eventually combine and rise together as one. Music moves the human heart like nothing else can.
The brief preview of All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914 was simply amazing.
It gave me goosebumps.
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