I’m feeling very twenty-first century at the moment, even though part of my mind is firmly rooted in the nineteenth. That’s because I’m typing this post on an iPad at an altitude of about 32,000 feet, connected to wi-fi on an American Airlines flight to Dallas, where I’ll be attending the world premiere of Jake Heggie‘s opera adaptation of Moby-Dick.
I just received an e-mail from my sister who writes that she recently read about the production in American Airlines’ in-flight magazine. Apparently not this month, however, because there’s no article about it in the copy of the magazine that’s in the seatback pocket in front of me.
Wait. Hold on. I’m connected. Googling …
Here it is. It was in last month’s issue. And if your interest is now piqued, you can read more about the opera at the Dallas Opera’s website.
Heggie won a Guggenheim five years ago and is the composer of four other operas: Dead Man Walking (premiered in 2000, libretto: Terrence McNally), The End of the Affair (2003, rev. 2004-2005, libretto: Heather McDonald), To Hell and Back (2006, libretto: Gene Scheer), and Three Decembers (2008, libretto: Scheer).
Moby-Dick, which was commissioned by The Dallas Opera together with San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera, Calgary Opera and State Opera of South Australia, is an opera in two acts, with a libretto by Gene Scheer. It has eight major roles and a 40-voice men’s chorus. It is scored for an orchestra of 3 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, 2 percussion, harp, strings). It’s premiering tonight at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas, TX, and here are the credits: Conductor: Patrick Summers. Director: Leonard Foglia. Set Designer: Robert Brill. Lighting Designer: Donald Holder. Costume Designer: Jane Greenwood. Film and Projections: Elaine McCarthy. CAST: Ben Heppner (Ahab), Stephen Costello (Greenhorn), Morgan Smith (Starbuck), Jonathan Lemalu (Queequeg), Talise Trevigne (Pip), Robert Orth (Stubb), Allan Glassman (Flask), Jonathan Beyer (Gardiner).
I’m particularly excited to hear Heppner whom I’ve heard before at the Met as Tristan. At the moment, I’m listening to a collection of Heggie’s songs, entitled The Faces of Love – The Songs of Jake Heggie, which features Renee Fleming, Sylvia McNair, Jennifer Larmore, Frederica von Stade, and Carol Vaness among others. At first hearing, the songs (which are settings of poems by a variety of poets, mostly contemporary) are stylistically varied, but strike me overall as lush, lyrical, and witty. I particularly like the jazzy “Eve Song; Snake,” which imagines Eve’s response to the serpent’s proposition in the Garden of Eden and is sung by McNair.
It bodes well for tonight.
[Photo: Tenor Ben Heppner as Ahab; credit: Karen Almond, Dallas Opera.]
I was there tonight and feel priveleged to have witnessed history. Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick is American opera as it should be, at it’s best, purely and completely inspired. Bravo Jake and the entire production team. Special praise to Ben Heppner will raise the bar beyond anyone else’s level of accomplishment. Also, brava to soprano Talise Trevigne, the ONLY female singer in the cast who MORE THAN held her own!