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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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.
...a massive artistic accomplishment.
Composer Jake Heggie has found the musical equivalent of Melville's rich prose in his roiling and sparkling orchestral score, while librettist Gene Scheer perfectly captures the book's original tone and language, even as he drops the first-person narration. (Seen the movies? Scheer's tight storytelling improves upon the film condensations of the book.)
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.
...reveals a composer whose depth and sophistication is growing with time, and the music world is the better for it.
[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.
...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.
It takes multiple ingredients for an opera to work, starting with a captivating story, which Moby-Dick” obviously has. But that sprawling novel had to be honed to a usable form, and Gene Scheer, one of today’s go-to librettists, did a first-rate job of conveying its scale and intimacy with vivid, imagistic language.
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...
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)