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Press Mixer with Jake Heggie and Moby-Dick

(© Ellen Appel)

Those who arrived at the new Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House in Dallas on April 30, 2010 were in for quite a surprise. And a pleasant one at that with the audience swirling in mass hysteria. The reason? Jake Heggie, that famous young American composer whose prolific works include Dead Man Walking, Three Decembers, The End of the Affair and To Hell and Back, was back in town for the World Premiere of his latest operatic work. Mr. Heggie turned a new leaf by jumping into one of most ambitious and highly anticipated operas to take the stage in recent years. Based on the literary classic by Herman Melville, Moby-Dick will be a reality for San Diego Opera in 2012.

We pick up where we last left off with Paul Wooley’s report dated March 11, 2009 (Read here) that predated the opening night in Dallas. Paul’s write-up provides great insight into the development of this amazing opera that is now in the throes of making other “firsts” on stage. It was at a press mixer presented by San Diego Opera that we were able to catch up with composer Jake Heggie and Director Leonard Foglia in person both of whom gave us a better sense of things to come.

General Director Ian Campbell provided some additional background on Moby-Dick before turning the program over to Messieurs Heggie and Foglia. Due to the immensity of monies involved, Moby-Dick was co-commissioned by Dallas Opera including the State Opera of South Australia, Calgary Opera, San Diego Opera and San Francisco Opera the order in which Moby-Dick will have its premiere showings. So as not to disappoint our readers, the commentary here is limited and somewhat vague in order to respect all individuals involved in this extraordinary venture.

Moby-Dick is a story of high psychological drama involving eight principal roles, all taken from the Melville book. Added to this menu will be forty chorus members (men) along with fifteen supernumeraries (requiring substantial physical abilities) and a full orchestra. Conducting the score will be our own Resident Conductor Karen Keltner who recently visited the production in Dallas to get a closer look. Undoubtedly, Ms. Keltner, Mr. Campbell and staff are all eager and enthusiastic about being active participants in this “cutting edge” opera.

We were taken through three or four video snippets to experience the scope of the opera, in the physical and music sense. Mr. Heggie views Moby-Dick as something beyond anything he’s composed in the past, something distinctly different that will catapult the audience into another dimension. In his own words, “It’s a very bold project, it’s a very nervy project.” The music will grab you and have you sitting on the edge of your seat. Just as we see grand opera (in the traditional sense) such as Verdi’s Don Carlo or Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, Moby-Dick could very well be classified as a modern grand opera due to its sheer spectacle.

As we get closer to the opening date of Moby-Dick, we’ll be certain to keep you informed with pertinent updates when they are available. But for now, we can tell you without hesitation that you’ll not want to miss Moby-Dick!

Christie Grimstad



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