New Opera Based on Story of WWI Christmas Truce

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On Dec. 5-6, 2009, Santa Clara's Mission City Opera performs the company's first new opera premiere: "Truce of Carols," a one-act opera in English and German, with libretto and music by the company's Associate Conductor Michael Taylor. Based in part on Stanley Weintraub's 2001 book, "Silent Night – the Story of the Christmas Truce," "Truce of Carols" tells the story of the spontaneous 1914 WWI Christmas ceasefire.

Santa Clara, California, November 16, 2009 – On Dec. 5-6, 2009, Santa Clara's Mission City Opera (www.missioncityopera.org) will perform the company's first new opera premiere: "Truce of Carols," a one-act opera in English and German, with libretto and music by the company's Associate Conductor Michael Taylor, and German translations by Mission City Opera founder and artistic director Sharon Kaye.

Sharing a double bill with Giancarlo Menotti's Christmas opera, "Amahl and the Night Visitors," production of the new opera was made possible by the generous support of City of Santa Clara, and grants from the Mission City Community Fund and the Applied Materials Excellence in the Arts program of the Arts Council Silicon Valley.

"Truce of Carols" tells the touching story of the spontaneous 1914 WWI Christmas ceasefire that began with a German soldier crossing no-man's-land with a tree decked with Christmas lights for the British. "The 1914 truce is a small event," Mr. Taylor explains, "but it represents the universal human hope we celebrate at Christmas, that people are more alike than different."

The one-act opera's libretto is based in part on Stanley Weintraub's 2001 book, "Silent Night – the Story of the Christmas Truce, according to Mr. Taylor, who drew on the real soldiers to create multi-dimensional composite characters of his opera. "Truce of Carols'" libretto also includes incidents described in Weintraub's book such as German and English soldiers joining together to bury their fallen comrades, and the soldiers' Christmas Day "Scots vs. Saxons" soccer match.

Mr. Taylor's vocal and orchestral music is accessible and engaging. Familiar Christmas carols thread through the "Truce of Carols" score, and 'singable' melodies and colorful orchestration create an eloquent and entertaining musical mosaic. "I wanted the opera to reflect human experience in all its dimensions: the human impulse to hope, love, play games and laugh is just as real as feelings of homesickness and fear." Aptly scheduled to debut between Veteran’s Day and Christmas, "Truce of Carols" has all the hallmarks of a Christmas show that promises to become a holiday favorite.

Performances of the two-opera program, "Truce of Carols" and "Amahl and the Night Visitors," are Saturday, Dec. 5, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday Dec. 6, 2009 at 3:00 p.m., at the Mission City Center for Performing Arts, 3250 Monroe St. in Santa Clara. Tickets are $16 for children under 12, and $26 to $46 for adults. For tickets or information, visit www.missioncityopera.org, call (408) 749.7607, or email tickets@missioncityopera.org, or info@missioncityopera.org.

About Michael Taylor

"Truce of Carols" composer Michael Taylor is a longtime favorite with San Francisco Bay Area opera and theater audiences, and is equally at home in grand opera and musical theater as a singer, conductor, actor and stage director.

Mr. Taylor has appeared as a soloist with many San Francisco Bay Area opera companies, including Opera San Jose and the San Francisco opera Center, and was a regional finalist in both the San Francisco Opera Merola Auditions and the Metropolitan Opera Auditions. A winner of the 1989 Bel Canto Foundation competition, Mr. Taylor studied with in Siena, Italy at La Scala. He also performed several roles in the San Francisco production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera" during the show's nearly six-year run.

Mr. Taylor’s stage directing and conducting credits include both opera and musical theater with many companies in San Francisco Bay Area, including the Lyric Musical Theater of San Jose and Livermore Valley Opera. He directed and conducted Mission City Opera’s premier production of Johann Strauss' opera “Die Fledermaus,” and has conducted or directed most of the company’s opera performances since then, including the company's annual Christmas show, "Amahl and the Night Visitors."

While "Truce of Carols" is his first opera, Mr. Taylor’s composing history includes many choral works, as well a student musical, Kids of the Rock, commissioned by the Nueva School in Hillsboro, CA. “I like to write music that both children and adults can enjoy, music that works at many levels," he says. "Even with grave subjects such as "Truce of Carols" World War I setting, you can still have jokes and humor, while not making light of the gravity of the opera’s situation. That is the human spirit.”

About Mission City Opera

Founded in 1996 by the company's artistic director, Sharon Kaye, Santa Clara's Mission City Opera dedicates itself to presenting professional, fully staged operas at affordable prices in intimate venues. The company's singers, instrumentalists and directors are seasoned performers who live and work in the Bay Area as professional musicians. A non-profit 501(c) 3 organization Mission City Opera's financial supporters include the Cultural Commission of the City of Santa Clara, the Santa Clara-based Mission City Community Fund, and the Arts Council Silicon Valley.


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