November 2011 — Vol. 76, No. 5
A Leap of Faith by Micahel Slade
Kevin Puts © Gregory Downer 2011
www.operanews.com [original link]
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"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 one senses that he's found his metier. (Occasionally, one has the sensation of looking over the composer's shoulder as he discovers the power of his medium.) He's a master polystylist, able to weld together heterogeneous musical materials that range from a pseudo-eighteenth-century-opera-within-the opera to jarring atonality. He writes impressively complex polyphony when it's called for, but is more affecting when his music turns spare and reflective. His timing is unerring. With this remarkable debut, Puts assumes a central place in the American opera firmament. Much will be expected from him."
"Grimly beautiful, the piece is a significant addition to the repertoire and heralds the emergence of composer Kevin Puts as a force in American opera…Librettist Mark Campbell's text is terse and cogent; he knows how to convey the essentials and leave the heavy lifting to the composer. Puts seldom relaxes his grip on the listener. There is no emotion his writing cannot conjure. In the course of two hours he integrates an astonishing range of forms and styles. At its best, as in the heartfelt choral lullaby of Act 1 or the shattering funeral march of Act 2, his music is as powerful as any being written today. "Silent Night" is, improbably, Puts' first opera; it shouldn't be his last."
Silent Night included as one of the Top Ten Opera Moments of 2011
"Perhaps it's unfair to include a production from Minnesota on this New York-centric list for a New York-based radio station, but Minnesota Opera presented one of the most compelling, memorable and poignant new works I've seen in recent years. Libretto and score merged flawlessly...here's hoping that it soon reaches New York-and recording."
Twin Cities Examiner.com
"…To fully appreciate this achievement, one must begin with the libretto by Mark Campbell. Adhering closely to Christian Carion’s original screenplay for Joyeux Noël, the librettist focuses on each character’s own distinctive sense of grief, whether expressed as guilt over a fallen brother or the simple craving for one blissful night of uninterrupted sleep. These yearnings are memorably expressed in a verbal mosaic of English, French, German, Italian, and Latin. Yet while each voice is unique, they are united by an empathetic longing.
What really imbues fervor to the production, though, is a landmark score from composer Kevin Puts. Already a widely celebrated talent in the classical world, Silent Night marks Puts’ debut opera. As such, Puts couldn’t make a more stunning first impression, launching into the opening of Act 1 with a wildly spiraling panorama of sound that culminates in an explosive climax. In the aftermath, as fraught silence descends on the battlefield, Puts settles into a suspenseful adagio capable of transitioning swiftly to lavishly layered melodies. No single moment allows more intense poignancy than Act 1’s closing aria wherein [Karin]Wolverton’s emotive register lifts the pathos to heartbreaking heights.
Without succumbing to cloying sentimentality, this latest creation from the Minnesota Opera achingly conveys the powerful resiliency of kindness and mercy even in the trenches of war. As such, Silent Night stands as a heartfelt hymn to our common humanity."
"An excellent production that should go down as a landmark in the Minnesota Opera's almost half-century history. Puts' rich, transporting score is the foundation for a very moving piece of theater, filled with imaginative design and powerful performances."