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. That soldier, John Wormley, is himself a complex character in need. Crossing 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.