Melville’s Classic Comes to Life
02/18/2012 - and 21, 24, 26 February 2012
Jake Heggie: Moby-Dick
Ben Heppner (Captain Ahab), Morgan Smith (Starbuck), Jonathan Lemalu (Queequeg), Jonathan Boyd (Greenhorn), Talise Trevigne (Pip), Matthew O’Neill (Flask), Robert Orth (Stubb), Malcolm MacKenzie (Captain Gardiner), Ernest Pinamonti (Tashtego), Kenneth Anderson (Daggoo), Chad Frisque (Nantucket Sailor), James Schindler (Spanish Sailor)
San Diego Opera Chorus, Charles F. Prestinari (Chorus Master), San Diego Opera Orchestra, Jeff Thayer (Concertmaster), Joseph Mechavich (Conductor)
Leonard Foglia (Director and Dramaturg), Robert Brill (Scenic Designer), Jane Greenwood (Costume Designer), Steven W. Bryant (Wig and Makeup Designer), Donald Holder (Lighting Designer), Elaine McCarthy (Projection Designer), Keturah Stickann (Choreographer), James Newcomb (Fight Director), Fletcher Runyan (Stunt/Climbing Coordinator)
(© Ken Howard)
You’ll never imagine the thrills to come! Hang on to your hats and get ready for The MOST incredible journey aboard the Pequod! The highly anticipated and visually stunning production of Moby-Dick finally reaches San Diego Opera with a bang. Floridian Jake Heggie, whose earlier works include Dead Man Walking (2000), The End of the Affair (2003), To Hell and Back (2006) and Three Decembers (2008), recently completed the two act opera based on the voluminous 1851 novel by Herman Melville. Teamed up with librettist Gene Scheer, Moby Dick made its 2010 world premier commemorating the new Winspear Dallas Opera House.
ConcertoNet has closely followed the oceanic voyage of Moby-Dick with Paul Wooley’s elucidatory 2009 article surrounding its genesis and developmental aspects (Read here) and Christie Grimstad’s subsequent 2010 report during a press mixer with Jake Heggie and director Leonard Foglia (Read here). A bit of background, this state-of-the-art Robert Brill set design has been commissioned and produced by the Dallas, San Diego, San Francisco and Calgary opera houses as well as The State Opera of South Australia. Unfortunately, Karen Keltner was forced to bow out of conducting due to an illness only to be replaced by Calgary Opera’s Joseph Mechavich who just completed performances of Moby-Dick in Canada two weeks earlier.
The moment the music begins we’re literally drawn into Moby-Dick as though we’re one of the crew. This extraordinary venture, already filled with a cadre of colorful characters, riveting drama, eye riveting sets and awesome visual effects, is lifted exponentially to another stratospheric rung with Jake Heggie’s lyrical, imaginative and captivating music. One can hear John Adams’ influences of Nixon in China, but Jake Heggie has an amazing pallet of orchestral diction that’s innovative and connected to magnify the story.
(© Ken Howard)
Melville’s epic classic delves beneath the surface by exfoliating weighted issues of religion, racism, and capitalism. Librettist Gene Scheer flip flops the work’s first person narrative flashback by catapulting us into the present where we first witness Greenhorn querying Queequeg’s shamanistic practices. At loggerheads with one another, they eventually befriend one another and complete the seafaring journey with Greenhorn’s life better clarified while paying homage to the deceased Pacific Islander. It’s through Malcolm MacKenzie’s commanding voice as Captain Gardiner that we discover Greenhorn’s true identity, “Call me Ishmael.” This is one of many pondered topics in an attempt to address understanding and decision-making. Heggie, Scheer and Melville foment more questions than answers.
(© Ken Howard)
Queequeg is tailor made for Jonathan Lemalu along with Jonathan Boyd’s wonderful portrayal as Greenhorn. Talise Tevigne comfortably slips into the trouser role (literally and figuratively) as a spunky, empathetic, high flying (literally) Pip. At the heart of such aforementioned contemplative matters is the undulating tensions between Captain Ahab and Starbuck. Ben Heppner, original creator of the role, Captain Ahab, masterfully adapts to walking on the most realistic peg leg while garbed in a broody black cape. Vocal problems have plagued the heldentenor over the past few years (he had to withdraw from The Met’s 2011 Ring as Siegfried), and although he delivers a mighty and stalwart rendition, there is a tenuous bent while notes occasionally crack. Morgan Smith’s wonderful baritone register rings clear and mighty as the principled Christian, Starbuck.
(© Ken Howard)
Because Moby-Dick is a continuum of mobile ropes, masts, ladders and scrims, rehearsal was imperative to ensure the safety of all actors, singers, climbers and acrobats. Safeguards in place, this production under the direction of Leonard Foglia is professionally and superbly executed from start to finish. Charles F. Prestinari’s chorus has never been better alongside the smashing dynamism from the orchestra.
Wow! This is far better than an E ticket ride at Disneyland! Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick is so stimulating you’ll want to see it again. An “out of body” experience. Stupendous!