Angeles Review by Willard Manus
Inspired by Walt Whitmans Civil War poetry and prose, CROSSING was recently mounted in concert-recital form at The Wallis as part of L.A. Operas Off Grand Series. The youthful conductor, Matthew Aucoin, also wrote the music and libretto for this new American opera, which was first produced in 2015. Following CROSSINGS successful debut, LA Opera made Aucoin its first artist in residence and agreed to produce the West Coast premiere of CROSSING.
Baritone Rod Gilfry, who made his LA Opera debut back in 1986, performed as Whitman, creating a tragic but flawed hero
who found himself overwhelmed by the horrors of war. His struggle to keep from going insane-and to cling to his faith in humanity-made for powerful drama. Gilfry, a towering presence on stage, acted and sang with impressive fervor and skill.
Tenor Brenton Ryan, another LA Opera favorite, took on the role of the wounded soldier, John Wormley. His gripping portrayal of the confused and conflicted young man was memorable. Davon Tines, as the escaped slave Freddie Stowers, also stood out vocally, as did Liv Redpath as the Messenger of Peace (and the only woman in the opera).
The news brought by the Messenger (and a 12-person male chorus) didnt mean much to the patients in the hospital; war had wrecked the lives of these ex-soldiers, sent them into a Dante-esque hell from which they would never escape.
Aucoins melancholic score underlined the savagery of the civil war, a war in which mans inhumanity to man overwhelmed everything good in the American soul.