Premiere New York Premiere
Production Language English
Country of Origin United States
Description Poet Walt Whitman’s personal experience caring for Union soldiers in a Civil War field hospital sets the stage for composer/librettist Matthew Aucoin’s critically acclaimed and resonant opera. Directed by Diane Paulus, with Aucoin conducting 26-piece chamber orchestra A Far Cry, the opera features baritone Rod Gilfry (Walt Whitman), tenor Alexander Lewis (John Wormley), bass baritone Davone Tines (Freddie Stowers), soprano Jennifer Zetlan (Messenger), and an 11-member male chorus. The work was commissioned by American Repertory Theater for The National Civil War Project, commemorating the war’s 150th anniversary. Set in a ramshackle hospital, bloodied and broken soldiers await their fates and news of the war’s end. Aucoin’s fictional characterization of Whitman presents a conflicted but compassionate man, drawn romantically to a wounded soldier—John Wormley—himself a complex character in need. In a review of the opera’s 2015 world premiere in Boston, The New York Times said Aucoin “writes music that activates the text. In whole stretches, the orchestra almost hugs each word with some piercing harmony…” The Boston Globe says “Crossing is opera at its most elemental, something Whitman would have appreciated.” The work features rich choral segments and additional solo roles by Davone Tines as Freddie Stowers, an escaped slave who later joined the Union forces; and Jennifer Zetlan—the opera’s sole female voice—as the messenger who brings word of the war’s end.