Many, many years ago, like every other college student in the world I read Herman Hesse's novel, Siddhartha...but in my case, it did much to change my life. You'll remember that it was the story of Prince Siddhartha's spiritual journey for enlightenment amidst the temptations of the flesh. It won Hesse the Nobel Prize in 1946. One of the most widely-read books of the twentieth century, it has been translated into dozens of languages including several different English versions. If I recall, there was even a rather trite movie version in 1972. In the nearly hundred years since it was published, it has sold tens of millions of copies and continues to be read universally. What's the attraction? Well, in my case it opened my eyes to the possibilities of another way of living my life....which some years later led to my being receptive to the Buddhist mode of thinking (It was a Chinese doctor who worked with me for a year in 1952 during my stay in Korea during the war there who introduced me to the culture, which I later adopted to the zen Juddhist way of life that I pursue today.)
Giorgio Adamo as Siddhartha. Photo by Jay.
So when Tim Choy invited me to attend a concert production of Siddhartha the Musical at Vibrato this week, I accepted out of curiosity and confusion. Who would have the spunk to interpret this lovely story to a musical? Well, it turned out that one of the people to do so was a stunning Mexican-born woman living in Milan for 20 years, Gloria Grace Alanis, who told me the astonishing story of how she had come to do so. "It all began," she said:
...in an Italian maximum-security prison in Milan called Opera Jail. In 2006 my friend, singer-songwriter Isabella Biffi, known as Isabeau, was contacted by the jailers to conduct a musical workshop there to help rehabilitate the inmates. During the workshop, she established a musical theatre program where all of the Opera prison inmates, even those with life sentences, participated as cast and crew.
I was stunned and asked her to elaborate.
Four years and three successful musicals later, one of the musicals was so stunning that she asked me to see about transferring it. I thought it was so astonishing that I helped to transfer it with a professional cast to a theatre in Milan to enormous critical and commercial praise. That was Siddhartha the Musical.
Producers Marc Routh, Gloria Grace Alanis and Simone Genatt Haft. Photo by Jay.
I knew that I was hearing a miraculous story which would interest my Huffington and other readers. It is astonishing that a musical which began in the Italian prison system would grow to a full-scale musical, which has toured through Italy in the past year and was here this night. Yes, the power of the Siddhartha story was evident. After the concert performance with six remarkable performers, two of the other Executive Producers, Marc Routh and Simone Genatt Haft of Broadway International Entertainment, took up the story with me:
We joined the team, to develop the show further for the world market, and helped arrange for its North American premiere with special concert performances in New York City, Los Angeles, and Careyes, Mexico.
I asked why Careyes, who was prominently featured in an article in last week's Wall Street Journal, and they explained that Gloria has a house there, and our Associate Producer, Ana Brignone, is from the Brignone family who founded the Careyes Private Resort. I laughed and said it would explain why my friends Michael Solomon and wife (and ex-Bond girl) Luciana Paoluzzi were in the audience, as they too had a house in Careyes.
Siddharta. Photo by Jay.
Because it was not a full cast ensemble, I am not going to review the exciting performance, which I saw at the fabulous Vibrato theatre/restaurant owned by Herb Alpert (who was in New York this night celebrating his ninth Grammy win for best pop musical album). But I can tell you that the thrilling Italian and South Asian-influenced, pop-rock score by Fabio Codega and Isabella Bffi (who also wrote and directed it) was masterful, and had my heart pumping.
I have no doubt that the millions of fans of the novel will flock to see this transformational musical. Executive Producer Fabrizio Carbon told me that the larger version of it will play this August for thirty performances at the Edinburgh Festival. And I am going to recommend to Ms. Lou Moore and Jerry Magnin that they consider booking it into their Wallis Annenberg theatre in Beverly Hills as soon as they have an opening. You can go to www.SiddharththeMusical.com for a preview of the fabulous show. Yes, the power of Prince Siddhartha and his message of Buddhist peace continues to radiate throughout the world, and in my heart.