San Diego Opera Presents Drive-In Screening Of ‘All Is Calm’
Choral opera looks to Christmas Truce of 1914
Thursday, December 17, 2020
"Calm is a good word, isn't it? So we are we're trying to remain calm in a shifting sea, right, of circumstances," said San Diego Opera director David Bennett.
The circumstances currently testing the company involve the uncertainty of exactly what its Dec. 21 event can be.
San Diego Opera wanted to bring back the a cappella opera about the Christmas Truce of 1914 to close out 2020. But concerns over safety with COVID-19 cases surging led the company to opt for a drive-in presentation of its earlier production that was telecast on KPBS in 2018. The plan also included a live sing-along of holiday favorites with members of the San Diego Opera Chorus.
"We know that drive-in theaters, movies, are an approved activity, even with the new announcement by the governor. So we know that aspect of it is going to be approved and can be safe," Bennett said. "We are still getting approval of whether we can have the 30-minute concert of live singing that we are trying to hold."
San Diego Opera held its first-ever live drive-in production of "La Bohème" in October. But to stage that each singer required 120 square feet of space and had to be 15 feet away from anyone they were facing. That required some clever staging and a reimagining of the opera as a memory that the main character is writing about.
"All Is Calm," which deals with enemy soldiers coming together in no man's land during World War I to enjoy an impromptu truce, offered too many staging challenges to afford each singer 120 square feet of space especially when you consider that they start in the trenches and then need to mingle together in no man's land. That's when San Diego Opera decided to take advantage of the filmed version of the production.
But since it had success with its drive-in "La Bohème" it decided to try a drive-in movie.
"What we learned from 'La Bohème' is we're missing not just seeing live performance, but everyone is missing a communal experience," Bennett said. "We spend so much of our time in a conversation [where] we're all in our own individual homes, and the opportunity for us to find a way to be together as a community safely is a very important thing."
A sense of a communal experience is central to "All Is Calm" where enemy soldiers were close enough to hear each other sing.
"It was actually soldier to soldier hearing the singing across no man's land in the opposite trenches and coming out to have this truce," Bennett explained. "So it really is a story about using Christmas as an opportunity for a collective communal experience."
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