Lyric Opera of Kansas City's SILENT NIGHT Begins 1/21

Lyric Opera of Kansas City's SILENT NIGHT Begins 1/21

Lyric Opera of Kansas City continues its exhilarating 57th season with the Kansas City premiere of composer Kevin Puts' 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning opera, Silent Night, February 21, 25 and 27 and March 1 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The production will be sung in English, German, French, Italian and Latin with English titles.

Based on a fascinating true story, Silent Night recounts a miraculous moment of peace during one of the bloodiest wars in human history. On World War I's western front, weapons were laid down when the Scottish, French and German officers defied their superiors and negotiated a Christmas Eve truce. Enemies became brothers as they came together to share Christmas and bury their dead.

Silent Night, which premiered at Minnesota Opera in 2011 to worldwide critical acclaim, will debut at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. "We are very proud to present this stunning and moving production, which has quickly entered the opera repertoire, to Kansas City audiences," Deborah Sandler stated. "An extremely poignant work, its premiere is especially timely in light of the commemoration of the centennial of World War I. Through our art, we are able to focus on the price that war extracts. We use our lens to understand that when we appeal to our essential humanity, conflict becomes unreasonable."

Silent Night earned composer Kevin Puts a Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2012. The libretto, by Mark Campbell, is based on the multilingual screenplay by Christian Carion for the 2005 film Joyeux Noël that tells a story during the spontaneous but short-lived truce between enemy combatants in World War I on Christmas Day, 1914.

In the role of Anna SØrensen, Canadian soprano Erin Wall will be making her debut with Lyric Opera of Kansas City. She reprises the role, which Wall first performed in the Cincinnati Opera production of Silent Night in 2014. Wall is a renowned and versatile international talent, acclaimed for her performances of contemporary opera as well as her interpretations of Strauss, Mozart and Mahler. In her recent title role in Thaïs at the Edinburgh Festival, Erin won raves as the "Thais of one's dreams, wielding a soprano of radiance, pristine beauty and tingling top notes," (Andrew Clark, Financial Times). She has also performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Opéra National de Paris, the BBC Proms and La Scala.

Dynamic tenor Sean Panikkar will make his Lyric Opera debut in the role of German opera singer and conscript Nikolaus Sprink. Capturing national attention as part of the popular trio Forte Tenors, Panikkar has been lauded for his "big, potent tenor" (Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal). His Molqi in The Metropolitan Opera's The Death of Klinghoffer was universally praised--James Jorden of the New York Observer commented he "rose to the challenge of the stratospheric tessitura of Molqi's war cries." Performing frequently at the Metropolitan Opera, Panikkar has portrayed Tybalt in Romeo et Juliette, with Placido Domingo conducting, and as Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor. Pannikar was praised for his "resilient, lyrical, supple and touchingly expressive" tenor (Hilary Finch, London Times) in the role of Rodolfo in La Bohème at Royal Albert Hall in 2014. He has also performed at San Francisco Opera, Dallas Opera, and the Aix-en-Provence Festival.

Acclaimed baritone Liam Bonner stars as the conflicted French commander Lt. Audebert, returning to the role he created in Silent Night's world premiere at Minnesota Opera in 2011. "Mr. Bonner brought warmth and wistfulness to Audebert," wrote the New York Times of Bonner's reprise of the role at Opera Philadelphia in 2013. Praised by Opera News for his "rich, versatile voice" and "beautiful instrument," Bonner is considered a rising star, and has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera and the English National Opera. He returns to the Lyric Opera after his Kansas City debut in April of last year, for which he received rave reviews for his Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus.

Baritone Craig Irvin, making his Lyric Opera debut, will play the role of Lt. Horstmayer, the German commanding officer. Like Bonner, Irvin created his role in the Minnesota Opera world premiere in 2011, and has reprised the role at Forth Worth Opera and Cincinnati Opera. "The robust baritone Craig Irvin is at the moral crux of the opera," wrote the New York Times in 2013. "Irvin endows his character with full humanity and vocal power," wrote Opera News of the artist's Horstmayer in Fort Worth Opera's 2014 production. A frequent performer with Minnesota Opera, Irvin has also performed with Los Angeles Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Returning to the Lyric Opera after his much-heralded turn as Papageno in The Magic Flute in 2013, Daniel Belcher will perform the role of Scottish priest Father Palmer. The Grammy Award-winning baritone has built a 50-role repertoire that features critically acclaimed performances of the work of Puccini, Mozart and Rossini. Performing in a "brilliant, vibrant baritone," with an "uncommonly wide range" (Opera News), Belcher is a native of St. Joseph, Missouri, attended William Jewell College and has performed with San Francisco Opera, Grand Theatre de Geneve, and New York City Opera.

Octavio Cardenas will direct and be making his Lyric Opera debut. Serving as assistant director for Silent Night's premiere in 2011, he has also directed the Fort Worth Opera's production of Silent Night to wide acclaim in 2014. Also making his Lyric Opera debut is conductor David Charles Abell, who most recently wielded the baton, guiding Porgy and Bess for Cincinnati Opera to rave reviews.

Scenery and Properties designed by Francis O'Connor. Costumes designed by Kärin Kopischke. Projections designed by Andrzej Goulding. Sound designed by Andrew C. Mayer. Scenery, properties, costumes and media files for this production are owned by the Minnesota Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Cincinnati Opera and Fort Worth Opera and were constructed by the Minnesota Opera Shops.

Photo by Michal Daniel