Production Is First World Premiere at Dallas’s New Winspear Opera House
The first world premiere at the new Winspear Opera House here will be an epic event: The Dallas Opera's spring production of Moby-Dick by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer, based on Herman Melville's iconic American novel of 1851. Tenor Ben Heppner stars as Captain Ahab.
Jake Heggie has said that Melville's book isn't only operatic in scope: music virtually rises from its pages. "There is so much music with the sea and the wind and that sort of universe that Melville created, the ship floating on the ocean just as the planet floats on the universe. There were bells on the whaling ships, the whales themselves made very percussive noises." As he and Scheer worked to distill a huge, classic book into a two-act, three-hour operatic story, the composer felt "the musical world reveal itself" with grand orchestration and a 40-voice men's chorus.
The six-performance premiere of Moby-Dick, to run from April 30 to May 16, will star Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab. The Canadian tenor is one of today's foremost exponents of such heroic roles as Wagner's Tristan, Lohengrin and Walther, Beethoven's Florestan, Verdi's Otello and Tchaikovsky's Ghermann, acclaimed in these portrayals from New York's Metropolitan Opera to the greatest stages in London, Berlin, Paris, Milan and Madrid. Also in the cast are up-and-coming baritone Morgan Smith (Starbuck) and tenor Stephen Costello (Ishmael), winner of the 2009 Richard Tucker Award.
Patrick Summers, music director of Houston Grand Opera, will conduct the premiere run of Moby-Dick. It's the fourth Jake Heggie opera premiere to be shepherded by Summers, following Dead Man Walking, The End of the Affair and Three Decembers (Last Acts). Dead Man Walking has been performed more than 125 times since its 2000 San Francisco premiere, making it one of the most popular of recent American operas.
Four companies joined with the Dallas Opera to co-commission and co-produce Moby-Dick: the San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera, Calgary Opera and the State Opera of South Australia. Following the Dallas premiere, Moby-Dick will be presented by the co-producing companies over a three-year period.