Bodhi Tree’s production of Peter Rothstein’s All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 (November 19 and 20) was exceptional, absolutely sold out and musically fine. Many from San Diego Opera were in attendance, including people I’ve known for years, former employees, supporters, and also David Bennett, the newish artistic director, who seemed elated (San Diego Opera, FAB United and Sacra/Profana were collaborators).
Performer/soloists, in period uniforms, were Walter DuMelle, Chad Frisque, Jonathan Nussman, Timothy Simpson, Michael Sokol, and Christoper J. Stephens, many of them Bodhi Tree regulars, including founder DuMelle. They were supported by nine men from Sacra Profana, Colin Barkley, Aaron Bullard, Aaron Burgett, Angel Mannion, Nicholas Root, Mitch Rosenthal, Michael Sparaco, Kurt Wong, and Paul Young, Jr.
The piece consists of a minimum of dialogue, mainly contemporary battlefield and literary citations and poems, traditional music of the season and also music from the WWI era, when the incident of spontaneous truce occurred in 1914. Thus we have “Minuit chrétiens (O Holy Night)” sung purely and lusciously by tenor Simpson, “Pack Up Your Troubles,” “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” “Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella,” “O Tannenbaum” and “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming)” some sung by all, some by the German soldiers, including soloists.
Acoustically the production worked well, with Sacra/Profana (the Germans) in the main playing area (imagine a church), and featured soloists arrayed on a ramp house right and on various levels of constructed forestall. Breathtaking blend was achieved numerous times.
Written by Peter Rothstein, All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 has musical arrangements by Erick Lochte and Timothy C. Takach, was developed and produced in 2007 by Cantus and Theatre Latté Da in Minnesota, and is sung entirely a cappella, conducted here by Juan Carlos Acosta, associate artistic director of Sacra Profana, and directed by Jacob Bruce. Proceeds benefitted the Veterans Museum of Balboa Park, where it was performed.