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‘Silent Night’ panel to focus on dissent in war

MinnPost is a promotional partner for “Silent Night: A Policy Discussion on Dissent in a Time of War,” a public conversation to be held Wednesday at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The event will focus on issues raised in “Silent Night,” a new opera to receive its world premiere next month by Minnesota Opera.

Panelists will be Gary DeCramer, director of the Master of Public Affairs program at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs; Col. Jon Jensen, chief of staff, Minnesota National Guard; and “Silent Night” librettist Mark Campbell. Susan Albright, a MinnPost co-managing editor, will moderate.

The free event will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Cowles Auditorium in the Humphrey school, University of Minnesota, 301 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis. Registration for the event is online.

“Silent Night” is based on Christian Carion’s screenplay for the 2005 French film “Joyeux Noël,” which in turn depicted a brief soldiers’ Christmas truce in 1914 during World War I. The film’s story captured what actually were many impromptu, intermittent truces that took place along the trench lines in Belgium and France. Accounts of the ad hoc truces were told by surprised soldiers in letters home and in accounts in the New York Times and in British newspapers.

As “Silent Night” stage director Eric Simonson said during an informational Minnesota Opera event on Monday, the soldiers had gone into war just a few months earlier, “expecting glory … four months later they were losing their minds.” Those who took part in the truces — some of which involved carol singing,  handshakes and even a reported soccer match in “no man’s land” between the trenches — met with ramifications when military commanders learned of what had happened. The panel will explore military discipline, the “contract” soldiers have with their commanders, and what happens when soldiers meet the enemy face to face as fellow humans on Christmas Day.

“Silent Night” was commissioned by Minnesota Opera as part of its New Works Initiative. You can read a synopsis of the opera here, and background information about the impromptu Christmas 1914 truces here. Performances run Nov. 12, 15, 17, 19 and 20. For tickets or more information, click here.

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