Magazine article Opera Canada

Moby-Dick

Magazine article Opera Canada

Moby-Dick

Article excerpt

If you will pardon the pun, Dallas Opera produced a whale of an opera as well as an opera about a whale in its May, world premiere production of Moby-Dick, Jake Heggie's daring musical assault on the Leviathan that is Herman Melville's classic 19th-century novel. Setting a libretto by Gene Scheer that cleverly pares away Melville's numerous pages of philosophizing and whale scholarship to concentrate on human interactions aboard Captain Ahab's doomed ship, Pequod, Heggie has surpassed his considerable achievement in Dead Man Walking by producing a highly accessible, melodically contoured, conservatively tonal score as rich in nautical atmosphere as it is forceful in dramatic thrust.

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True, it lacks the originality and character penetration of Britten's score for that other classic Melville tale of the sea, Billy Budd, but it has given Canada's foremost tenor another signature role, the monomaniacal Captain Ahab finding Ben Heppner in top vocal form for the assignment, despite having to sing the whole opera peg-legged, his left lower limb surreptitiously strapped up in a harness under his character's great coat.

Heppner's success is shared by a conspicuously strong, almost all-male (save for soprano Talise Trevigne's cabin boy, Pip) cast, including Stephen Costello's Greenhorn, Jonathan Lemalu's Queequeg and Morgan Smith's Starbuck, not to mention Dallas Opera's fine male chorus. …

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