In front of a trailer in an American trailer park a mixed crowd gathers. Young and old, speaking and singing, they take out of a paper bag one by one the leaves of an exuberant fabric of verse. In a kaleidoscopic panorama they unfold Walt Whitman’s powerful poetry as a journey in words through the landscapes of the United States. With them, we experience the “Leaves of Grass” as the awakening and constant transgression of boundaries that they symbolize for modern American poetry.
“He is America“, said Ezra Pound of the poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892), the founder of modern American poetry. In Leaves of Grass he sings of the awakening of the USA after the Civil War. In his poetry he unites ideas drawn from culture, society, politics, science and mysticism of his age. His cantos are a reflection and vision of a modern nation of “United States“ which overcome divisions and are supposed to bring freedom and democracy to all.
The musical settings of Whitman by Paul Hindemith, Franz Schreker, George Crumb and Kurt Weill allow us to hear the multifaceted effect this poetry still has.
Following Fredy Neptune by Australian poet Les Murray (2009), Dunckler Enthusiasmo by the Italian poet Pier Paolo Pasolini (2011) and the long poem Prosa meiner Heimatstraße (Prose from my Home Street) by Büchner Prize winner Wolfgang Hilbig (2013), the director, translator and actor Leopold von Verschuer has this year made a stage version of this central work of American literature.
He is accompanied by such excellent actors as Jutta Wachowiak, Matthias Rheinheimer, mezzo-soprano Sarah van der Kemp and the Flemish actor Tony de Maeyer. Musical director and accompanist is the pianist, conductor and New Music specialist Adrian Heger.
Project leader: Andreas Conrad
Walt Whitman: Leaves of Grass – A Staging is presented with the kind support of the Carl Hanser Verlag.