Nearly 70 years after earning Herman Hesse the Pulitzer Prize for Literature, his novel Siddhartha continues to provide inspiration, in surprising ways and surprising places. Like in a maximum security Italian prison, and the mind of Billy Corgan.
In Italy, singer and director Isabella Biffi initiated a program to produce musicals in the aptly named Milano-Opera prison. The inmates’ clever use of Hesse’s masterpiece as source material for their performance motivated Biffi to create the full-blown, professional Siddhartha: the Musical. A European tour of the show proved so successful that the cast continues to perform a spin-off concert version. Recent dates in the U.S., with the original songs in Italian but the narration in English, prompted one reviewer to conclude, “After experiencing these amazing singers, one could only hope that the full production will eventually come to America.” See a video synopsis of Siddhartha: the Musical after the jump, and other videos and information at their website.
An, ahem, much more extended musical meditation on Siddhartha is what’s on tap this Friday, February 28, starting at noon at Madame ZuZu’s Tea Shop in Chicago. The tea shop is owned by Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan, who will be on hand to perform an 8-9 hour piece that he says “will be centered around an ambient/musical interpretation of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha; built by modular synthesis, on the fly. Readings of the text to go hand in hand with whatever is created.” If that sounds like your cup of tea (and you have 8-9 hours to spare), you’ll find details here.