Jay Hunter Morris (pictured left, photograph by Photografeo Pty Ltd.) will replace Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab in San Francisco Opera's Moby-Dick, which opens on October 10, 2012. Originally scheduled to sing the last three performances, Morris will now sing all eight. Heppner has withdrawn from the production for personal reasons.
Jay Hunter Morris (pictured left in the State Opera of South Australia's production of Moby-Dick) will replace Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab in the San Diego Opera's Moby-Dick on Tuesday, February 21, 2012. Heppner is ill. Morris had been originally scheduled for the San Diego performances, but withdrew to sing Siegfried in the Metropolitan Opera's Götterdämmerung last month.
* Notes *
The West Coast premiere of Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick (Act I pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) was given by San Diego Opera last night. This production was first seen two years ago at Dallas Opera, and has also had runs at the State Opera of South Australia in Adelaide and Calgary Opera. The opening performance in San Diego was impressive. Gene Scheer's libretto is paced well, skillfully arranged and rather more spare than Melville's novel. Heggie's music is also adroit, the ensembles and choruses sounded particularly lovely. Robert Brill's sets are cleverly enhanced by lighting designed by Donald Holder (revived here by Gavin Swift) and projections designed by Elaine J. McCarthy (revived here by Shawn Boyle). Only a couple of the visuals were awkward, specifically the flying harpoon ropes and splintering whale boats. However, director Leonard Foglia pulled together this opera as a coherent, vital work, without being mawkish.
The orchestra was lead by Joseph Mechavich, who also conducted this opera in Calgary. The 63 musicians crowded in the pit produced a lot of sound, occasionally overwhelming the singers. The chorus seemed at ease with the music, and the dancing in the second half of Act I was surprisingly good. The rest of the singing was likewise fine, Robert Orth (Stubb) had a hearty duet in Act I with Talise Trevigne (Pip). Trevigne's subsequent aria when lost at sea was splendid and as the highest voice in the opera, was both striking and haunting. Jonathan Boyd was the wide-eyed Greenhorn, he seemed momentarily strained in the beginning of Act I, but sang nicely for the rest of the evening. Jonathan Lemalu sang Queequeg with a certain dry quality, his duets with Boyd were balanced. Morgan Smith portrayed Starbuck beautifully, with sensitivity and humaneness. Ben Heppner made a grimly determined Captain Ahab, the effort in his voice seemed tangible, which was effective for this role.
* Tattling *
A cellular phone rang on the right side of the orchestra level during Act I. There was a lot of talking between a child in Row P Seat 46 and her guardian in Seat 44, but they were silent after being hushed. The child must have switched seats with someone, as she did not return for the second half. There was also much talking during Pip's aria in Act I from the couple in Row N Seats 42 and 44, rather unfortunate given how beautiful it was, and how lightly orchestrated.
Jay Hunter Morris (pictured left in the title role of Siegfried at the Metropolitan Opera, photograph by Ken Howard) will replace Gary Lehman as Siegfried in the Metropolitan Opera's new Götterdämmerung, which opens January 27, 2012. Lehman has withdrawn due to a viral infection. Morris himself has withdrawn from performances of Moby Dick at San Diego Opera, and the role of Ahab will be sung by Ben Heppner.
Robert Brill will replace Michael Yeargan as the scenic designer for Moby-Dick, which opens in Dallas on April 30, 2010.
"You know, the thing that's really remarkable about that book for the time period in which it was written is the improvisational, free-flowing nature of it. He goes from straight prose to something like love poetry to setting up scenes as though this were a play--and then, back again!"
I particularly like that this interview with Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer is prefaced (at least, at the time of writing, one assumes it will be corrected at some point) "A discussion with composer Jake Heggie and librettist Jake Heggie about the upcoming world-premiere production of Moby-Dick for The Dallas Opera." Personally, my favorite part of Melville's text is Chapter 55, "Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales," in which mistakes in depicting whales are discussed. Chapter 56, "Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales, and the True Pictures of Whaling Scenes," is slightly less amusing. Doubtless these chapters will not appear in the opera, but one can live in hope.
November 14-22 2008: Le Nozze Di Figaro
December 5-13 2008: Die Fledermaus
January 23-21 2009: Roberto Devereux
February 13-21 2009: La Bohème
March 6-14 2009: L'Italiana in Algeri
James Valenti is having his Dallas Opera debut as Rodolfo. William Burden is singing Lindoro in L'Italiana in Algeri, in the production San Francisco Opera audiences saw in 2005, directed by Chris Alexander. The Fledermaus production from Seattle Opera, last performed there in 2006, was also produced by Alexander.
The 2009-2010 season was announced today:
October 2009: Otello
February 2010: Così fan tutte
February/March 2010: Don Pasquale
Late April 2010: Moby-Dick
May 2010: Madama Butterfly
The new Winspear Opera House will be open by then. Most interesting in this inaugural season is the world premiere of Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick, conducted by Patrick Summers and starring Ben Heppner. The work is a co-commission and co-production with San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera, and Calgary Opera.
Press Release [PDF]