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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Composer Jake Heggie achieved his goal Friday night with an achingly beautiful, magnificently sung and gorgeously staged world premiere of his Moby-Dick, the highlight of the Dallas Opera's first season at the sparkling new Winspear Opera House. The audience responded with an eight-minute standing ovation. Heggie is a rarity, an accessible composer whose melodic lines and sense of drama are aimed at audiences rather than academics. With librettist Gene Scheer, he has transformed Melville's sprawling novel into an active stage work.
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.
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.
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...
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.
Moby-Dick turned out to be one of the most satisfying new operas I've seen premiered... the opening-night crowd in Dallas broke into spontaneous applause three times during the first half, and screamed and yelled its approval at the curtain calls. It was a wonderful and rare reminder that new opera truly can excite people if it's done right.
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...
Earlier this month I saw the future of opera. It is Moby-Dick at Dallas' Winspear Opera House.
...reveals a composer whose depth and sophistication is growing with time, and the music world is the better for it.
Moby-Dick is a triumph! ... a total and memorable experience. What an exciting city and time we live in that gives rise to an international collaboration that produces a modern masterpiece such as Moby-Dick.

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)