Kevin Puts has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music for 2012 for his Silent Night, described by the jury as “a stirring opera that recounts the true story of a spontaneous cease-fire among Scottish, French and Germans during World War I, displaying versatility of style and cutting straight to the heart.”
The opera, with a libretto by Mark Campbell, received its world-premiere production at Minnesota Opera in November. It was adapted from the 2005 movie "Joyeux Noël," which was nominated for an Academy Award for foreign-language film.
In her review for WQXR's Operavore, Olivia Giovetti praised the work's “deeply-rooted musicality,” adding, “Puts’s score mirrors the journey of the soldiers as they go from viewing the opposite side as stereotypes to realizing that the men they are firing at are just that—men."
The award comes with a $10,000 prize and goes to a “distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States” during the previous calendar year.
Puts, 40, studied music at Yale University and the Eastman School of Music. He teaches composition at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University.
The two Pulitzer finalists this year were Tod Machover for Death and the Powers, cited as “an inventive opera that uses electronic music as it explores a dying billionaire’s attempt to transcend mortality through technology, raising significant questions about human existence;” and Andrew Norman for The Companion Guide to Rome, described as “an impressive musical portrait of nine historic churches, written for a string trio but sometimes giving the illusion of being played by a much larger group, changing mood and mode on a dime.”
This is the second consecutive year that an opera has won the music Pulitzer; last year’s winner was Zhou Long for Madame White Snake.