Moby Dick (2010)

Libretto by Gene Scheer & Music by Jake Heggie

Moby Dick premiered at the Dallas Opera in 2010.

Moby Dick

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... an astounding journey. The Great American Novel has become a grand new opera.
[Moby-Dick] is a large, epically proportioned work … the music is flawlessly beautiful, like a jewel. It is intensely lyrical, powerfully moody and superbly well paced. There are no disjunctures of style or breaks in dramatic flow; instead, Heggie has created a giant symphonic poem through which he threads the voices majestically and gloriously.
It's glorious and it's gripping; it's grand — and it's good! Heggie — assisted by his seasoned librettist Gene Scheer — has achieved something with Moby-Dick that American opera has not experienced in a long time: they have created a work of quality that should garner itself an immediate place in the repertory of opera houses around the world. Director Leonard Foglia worked with the hand of a sorcere to blend projection designs by Elaine McCarthy into an overpowering and effective whole with designs by Robert Brill and lighting by Donald Holder. Never did these visual aspects threaten the primacy of Heggie's score, in which there is not one superfluous note. Patrick Summers, Heggie's perennial collaborator, evoked magnificent playing from The Dallas Opera Orchestra in giving birth to what is obviously a modern masterpiece of music theater.
The seamless combination of projections, the physical set and live action is astounding, seeming to blend opera with theatre, circus, cinema and visual art into a multimedia extravaganza. It has to be seen to be believed.
...Mr. Heggie's opera was an undeniable success: The end of its maiden voyage was greeted with a sustained, rousing ovation, with shredded programs fluttering down from the highest seating level. The strongest response was reserved for Mr. Heggie and Mr. Scheer, received at the end with a triumphal roar.
Melville's Moby-Dick has been called the Great American Novel. Jake Heggie's telling of the story is certainly a great American opera... ...a vibrant cast, headlined by Canadian star-tenor Ben Heppner, an atmospheric set enhanced by vido projections, and Heggie's sumptuous, noble score combined on May 5 for an exhilarating evening of music and theatre...
Mr. Scheer’s libretto was an economical wonder, casting off Melville’s landlocked opening and stretches of minutiae regarding whales and whaling. What remained was a taut, two-act adventure yarn, bound by the relationships between Ahab and his conscientious first mate, Starbuck, and between the neophyte seaman Greenhorn (Melville’s Ishmael, renamed with dramatic intent) and Queequeg, the noble-savage harpooner.
...probably one of the most successful new operas to reach the stage in the past quarter century.
When it opened on April 30, Moby-Dick turned out to be the hit of the season. The audience screamed approval, and performances promptly sold out... ...Moby-Dick is about as popular as a new opera can get. Not only was it a box-office success, but before it even opened, Heggie's name also had attracted four co-producers...Therefore, this successful production will be seen again...
The score is studded with vivid scenes in many modes. But the distinction of Moby-Dick lies less in its parts than in the whole. Though the action is episodic, the libretto holds a taut arc. The score holds together, too, shaped by the gravitational pull of the ties, ever-changing in the music yet ever-present. Ribbons of silken melody, played by solo winds and reeds, ripple high above, like wayward breezes. Pizzicati conjure up pinpricks of starlight on the waves. Under the baton of Patrick Summers, the score unfolded majestically, never rushed yet never meandering, the dramatic incidents clearly set off within the greater flow.

Orchestration

3 flutes (one doubles piccolo), 3 oboes (one doubles English Horn), 3 clarinets (one doubles bass clarinet), 3 bassoons (one doubles contrabassoon), 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in C, 2 trombones, 1 bass trombone, 2 percussion, 1 timpani, harp, strings

Performance History

The following companies have performed or scheduled future performances of the opera:

  1. The Dallas Opera (Apr 2010)
  2. State Opera of South Australia (Aug/Sept.2011)
  3. Calgary Opera (Jan 2012)
  4. San Diego Opera (Feb 2012)
  5. San Francisco Opera (Oct 2012)
  6. The Washington National Opera (Feb 2014)