By the time the curtain lifted at the Ordway on Saturday evening, it was already Sunday in the United Kingdom — the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 100 years exactly since the Armistice finally brought World War I to a conclusion.

That gave an added poignancy to the events onstage, where Kevin Puts' Great War opera "Silent Night" was playing.

Minnesota Opera premiered the piece in 2011, and this revival of the original production went a long way to explaining why it has since become so popular with other opera companies.

Puts' opera centers on what happened in the Belgian trenches at Christmas 1914 — a near-miraculous truce between Allied and German soldiers, who spontaneously left their bunkers to swap seasonal greetings and exchange mementos.

Mark Campbell's cinematic libretto features numerous shifts of scene and perspective, from a Berlin opera house to a Scottish church, and from a battlefield to the French, German and Scottish bunkers.

It could have been a major headache for the production crew, but Francis O'Connor's ingenious set design ensured it wasn't.

O'Connor set the action on and around a revolving platform to suggest the various locations, at one point metamorphosing into a glitzy cocktail party at a chalet.

The complicated battle scene in Act One was grippingly blocked by director Eric Simonson. For once the fighting looked real — so often in opera it is risibly ham-fisted, but fight director Doug Scholz-Carlson gave the bayonet thrusts and body hits a visceral immediacy.

The cast sang in three languages (four if you count Latin), and had no weak links. Among them tenor Miles Mykkanen stood out for his ardent, irascible performance as Nikolaus Sprink, the German soldier voicing his disillusion with the overlords who make war happen.

As his partner Anna Sørensen, Karin Wolverton reprised the part she sang in 2011, including an impassioned account of her anguished Act Two aria. The nuanced, cultured singing of baritone Edward Parks, as the French Lt. Audebert, was another vocal highlight of the evening.

Kevin Puts' vividly expressive music is a major contributor to the drama of Silent Night, and it found an ardent advocate in the young Northern Irish conductor Courtney Lewis.

Lewis shaped the action with both sweep and sensitivity, as incisive in moments dominated by blaring brass and slithering strings as he was in the opera's many interludes of lyrical introspection.

Kärin Kopischke's period costumes provided unobtrusive clarity among the combatants, while the lighting, sound and projections team worked overtime to sharply complement the onstage narrative.

Is Act Two of "Silent Night" a touch anti-climactic after the maelstrom of Act One? Does it lose its focus somewhat in the protracted disciplining of the fraternizing soldiers?

These are arguable questions. What's not arguable is the quality and impact of this Minnesota Opera production. In a world still fulminating with many kinds of conflict, it was a sobering reminder that for all our shared humanity we are still struggling to genuinely give peace a chance.

Terry Blain is a freelance classical music critic for the Star Tribune. Reach him at