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Matthew Aucoin

Publisher: AMP

Crossing (2015)
Commissioned by the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University in association with the Music-Theatre Group
Text Writer
the composer
Publisher
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Category
Opera and Music Theatre
Year Composed
2015
Duration
1 Hour 40 Minutes
Chorus
11 male singers
Language
English
Soloist
Bar, T, B-Bar, S
Programme Note
Matthew Aucoin Crossing (2015)
Composer Note:

What is it, then, between us?” With this resonant question at the climax of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” Whitman asks many things at once: what is his relationship to his contemporaries, his fellow men and women? What is his relationship to you, the reader, whoever you may be, whenever and wherever you may be reading his poem? And what is the relationship between the contradictory elements of his own self? The phrase “between us” itself has a double meaning: what is the relationship between us, and what stands between us, keeping us apart?

What is his relationship to you, the reader, whoever you may be, whenever and wherever you may be reading his poem?

In the moment that Whitman asks this question, he is in a state of unknowing: he wants to know, and needs to know. Crossing emerges out of my sense that Whitman wrote his poetry out of need – that his poetry is not, or is not exclusively, a vigorous assertion of what he is, but rather the expression of a yearning to be what he is not, or to reconcile opposing aspects of his identity. The person/persona/personality “Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs” is the living product of this need.

So, in Crossing, the Walt Whitman who walks the stage is not that familiar poetic persona. Rather, this is Whitman as I imagine he might have been to himself, starting from a midlife crisis which prompts his radical, heroic decision to drop everything and volunteer in war hospitals. Naturally, this Whitman is a fictional creation. Crossing is a musical fantasia which imagines and realizes the many forces – generosity, insecurity, longing, selflessness, bravery, unfulfilled sexual desire, a need to escape his own life, a boundless kindness – that caused a man named Walter Whitman, Jr. to forge an indelible embodiment of the American spirit in his poetry.

— Matthew Aucoin


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Short synopsis:
Crossing is an operatic fantasia based on Walt Whitman’s experiences as a volunteer nurse during the American Civil War. The opera delves into Whitman’s psyche, exploring what might have led a middle-aged New Yorker to drop everything and work in brutal conditions for years on end. Was it pure generosity, pure selflessness? Or did Whitman feel some need to escape his own life – or to know himself better by putting himself through a Dante-esque challenge?

Once in the hospital, Whitman strikes up a friendship with a volatile young soldier named John Wormley. As the war drags on, their relationship grows deeper and more complicated: Whitman never could have expected either the love or the betrayals that await him.

Links:
American Repertory Theater
-  Notes, Photos, Credits, Press
-  Program

NPR Music
-  story on Crossing and Aucoin
-  


Performances
Date
Title
  • 26 MAY 2018
    Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills
    LA Opera
    Matthew Aucoin, conductor
  • 03 OCT 2017
    Crossing New York Premiere
    Next Wave Festival
    Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY
    A Far Cry
    American Repertory Theater, directed by Diane Paulus; Matthew Aucoin, conductor

    Other Dates:
    5,7,8 October - Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY
  • 25 JUN 2017
    Abiquiu, NM
    James Onstad, tenor; Matthew Aucoin, piano
  • 29 SEP 2016
    excerpts
    National Opera Center, New York, NY
  • 29 MAY 2015
    Crossing World Premiere
    American Repertory Theatre with Music-Theater Group
    Shubert Theater, Boston, MA
    A Far Cry
    Rod Gilfry, Alexander Lewis, Davóne Tines, Jennizer Zetlan; directed by Diane Paulus; Matthew Aucoin, conductor

Reviews
Crossing is a taut, teeming and inspired work. With a libretto by Mr. Aucoin, the opera is based on the diaries of Walt Whitman from his transformative experience tending to wounded soldiers during the Civil War at makeshift hospitals on the outskirts of Washington.
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times,31/05/2015
Aucoin’s music, especially in his solo vocal writing, can be highly emotional and chromatic, often built on series of thirds or fourths, rather than stepwise or tonal melodies. Melodic lines often build up tension and then resolve with a sudden shift of register: instead of a seventh scale degree resolving to a tonic eighth (B-natural to a C in a mode based on C, by typical classical half-step motion), lines suddenly conclude by dropping a seventh or ninth.
Laura Stanfield Prichard, Boston Musical Intelligencer,30/05/2015
The piece is richly detailed, psychologically nuanced and philosophically provocative.
WBUR, Ed Siegel,30/05/2015
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