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San Diego Opera plans drive-in ‘All Is Calm’ film and live sing-along

San Diego Opera's 2018 production of "All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914."
On Dec. 21, San Diego Opera will present a filmed presentation its 2018 production of “All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914,” seen here.
(Courtesy of San Diego Opera)

Dec. 21 event at Del Mar Fairgrounds will include screening of company’s 2018 production of the a cappella holiday opera

Fresh from the success of its drive-in “La bohème,” San Diego Opera has announced its second outdoor event of the season: a live sing-along holiday concert and screening of the company’s 2018 production of “All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914.”

The two-part event will take place at 7 p.m. Dec. 21 in the Del Mar Fairgrounds parking lot. The “All is Calm” film was recorded at the opera’s premiere in December 2018 at the Balboa Theatre in the Gaslamp Quarter. That production was co-produced by Bodhi Tree Concerts and the SACRA/PROFANA choir.

San Diego Opera was already planning a new production of “All is Calm” as part of its 2020-21 season, but when the pandemic struck, the company began looking for ways to present the show in a new and safe way. About 200 tickets to the show are pre-sold to subscribers who purchased earlier this year as part of the originally planned season. But there are still tickets available for 400 cars, the company said Wednesday, Dec. 2.

“When we produced ‘All is Calm’ in 2018, the audience response was overwhelming, and we’ve received requests to produce it again since then,” said David Bennett, San Diego Opera’s general director, in a statement. “Although current safety protocols in response to COVID-19 make it impossible for us to produce it live now, I’m thrilled to be able to share a beautifully filmed performance from 2018 with our audiences.”

The event on Dec. 21 will begin with a live concert of holiday songs performed by members of the San Diego Opera Chorus, including a sing-along with audience members in their car. It will be followed by the filmed “All is Calm,” a family-friendly a cappella opera created in 2008 by Peter Rothstein for his Minneapolis-based company Theater Latté Da. The opera is based on a true story.

A scene from the 2018 production of "All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914" at the Balboa Theatre.
(Courtesy of San Diego Opera )


On Dec. 25, 1914, soldiers on opposites sides of the conflict in World War I laid down their arms, climbed out of their trenches at scattered locations along the Western Front and, for a few hours mingled and exchanged songs, handshakes and gifts. The spontaneous and never-repeated Christmas Day truce became one of the singular moments in history where the politics of war were briefly set aside for peace and goodwill toward men.

Rothstein drew all of the spoken text in “All is Calm” from actual letters and war journals written by soldiers who took part in the truce, as well as soldiers’ gravestones and war poetry of the era. Its nearly two dozen songs, performed by 16 male singers, are a mix of patriotic and recruiting tunes from the era as well as Christmas carols sung in the languages of the soldiers themselves: English, German and French.

The show climaxes with “Silent Night,” sung in German, then French, then English, all in different keys and musical beats until they come together in harmonic unison. Its epilogue is a wistful arrangement of “Auld Lang Syne.”

The ensemble cast featured in the film are tenors Jon Keenan, Chad Frisque, Alexis Alfaro, Timothy Simpson, Bernardo Bermudez, Daniel Moyer, Victor Morris; baritones Michael Sokol, Anthony Whitson-Martini, Andrew Konopak, Jonathan Nussman, Matthew Fallesen; and basses Shelby Condray, Joshua Arky, Walter DuMelle and Christopher Stevens.

Tickets to the event are $100 per carload or $135 for premium seating. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Food and drinks will be available for purchase onsite. To order tickets, visit sdopera.org/season/2020-2021-season/all-is-calm.

— Pam Kragen is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune


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