opera review: Crossing

For the last three years, the American Repertory Theater has been exploring the meaning of the Civil War on its 150th anniversary.  The new opera Crossing  is the final production in this initiative.

Crossing combines the themes of Walt Whitman’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry  with a story imagined from his experiences volunteering in the war hospitals near Washington D.C.   It succeeds as stylized meditation on alienation, despair and love; weakened slightly by the implausible of the plot, and to a greater extent by an analytic unreality the opera’s imagination of the problem.  Whitman himself asserted that the interior truth of the war would never be captured.  Nevertheless an underlying truth of his poem “We fathom you not—we love you” is captured well by Crossing.

The staging, dance and direction are straightforward, strong and serve production well.  The stylized makeup and lighting is a little over the top at representing the pain and isolation of the Union soldiers.  Unfortunately, this sets a baseline that results in the vicious deceptive character of Wormly appearing like some ghast from the Walking Dead.  At the same time, I’m unfamiliar with the traditions of opera, perhaps it only seems a bit off to a novice.  This aside, as an opera beginner I enjoyed the production, and has been thinking about it through the weekend, which is all that you can ask of art.

Coming up Thursday: Observatory Night at Harvard

This Thursday, Harvard’s monthly observatory night focuses on black holes.  Author Marcia Bartusia examines the development of “The weirdly alien notion of a space-time abyss from which nothing escapes – not even light – seemed to confound all logic.” Free and open to the public, at 7:30, at Phillips Auditorium, about a mile west of Harvard Square.

Get a taste of the experience, check out this video of last month’s presentation:

Subscriptions for the A.R.T.’s 2015/2016 Season are available to the general public

ART 15/16 season


  • The world premiere of the new musical Waitress, with music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles
  • Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet Of 1812 an electropop opera based on the quiet center at the heart of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
  • Nice Fish a play based on the prose poems of Louis Jenkins
  • what will, no doubt, be a doubleplusgood production of 1984
  • The world premiere of Eve Enseler’s In the Body of the World
  • ROOSEVELVIS  a “new work about gender, appetite, and the multitudes we contain”

“Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit – all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.”
– Brian Eno