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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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...
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.
...reveals a composer whose depth and sophistication is growing with time, and the music world is the better for it.
Moby-Dick, the opera, is a triumph. Stunningly staged and sung, it captures the elemental forces of the sea and Captain Ahab's obsession with the great white whale that has maimed him. Scheer seamlessly tunes his own prose and poetry to Melville's. Heggie composes vocal lines that make sense vocally and illumine words and emotions.
[Heggie & Scheer's] powerful and emotionally irresistible new work, which opened over the weekend at the Dallas Opera, doesn't shy away from the challenges presented by Melville's landmark novel. Instead, it deftly sidesteps them, drawing from the source only those things needed for the drama and using Heggie's lush, expressive music to carry the show. The result is a vibrant, compelling piece of musical theater...easily Heggie's finest creation since Dead Man Walking first put him on the map a decade ago. Heggie's great achievement in Moby-Dick is to write melodies that are memorable without being predictable, using harmonies that are clear but flavorful. The formal dramaturgy, too, is sleek and uncluttered, unfolding in a series of crisply rounded arias, choruses and especially duets.
Along with a new opera, a new chapter in opera history may have opened Friday night at the Winspear Opera House.
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.
Earlier this month I saw the future of opera. It is Moby-Dick at Dallas' Winspear Opera House.
...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.

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)