Heggie: Moby Dick
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On this world premiere recording, Grammy-winning tenor Jay Hunter Morris plays the role of Captain Ahab in Herman Meville's epic tale of a fierce, obsessive whaling-boat captain who descends into madness and puts his crew in mortal danger is brought to the stage in this thrilling production from San Francisco Opera. Composer Jake Heggie is in his 'finest creation since Dead Man Walking,' and librettist Gene Scheer adaptation is 'a vibrant, compelling piece of musical theater' (San Francisco Chronicle).
Frank Zamacona's video work captures the detail and emotional strength of Leonard Foglia's direction, and the seasoned and secured cast under the excellent leadership of Patrick Summers functions both vocally and dramatically as a fully invested ensemble...Very highly recommended. --Judith Malafronte, Opera News
If you did not make it to the Kennedy Center, you can get a very good impression of this work from the excellent DVD of the San Francisco Opera production produced by EuroArts. If you play it on a large screen, you may even be able to experience some of the theatrical impact. I would like to add that Moby-Dick has a broad age-range appeal. My 16-year-old daughter, who accompanied me, liked it very much. When I played the DVD at home, two of my other children-ages nine and 14-gathered on their own to view it, were immediately engaged, and did not move for extended periods of time. --Robert R Reilly
Moby-Dick emerges as an opera that has everything, and takes its place alongside the esteemed oceanic operas Billy Budd and L'amour de loin. --Gramophone Magazine, February 2014 - Editor's Choice
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Heggie's score has moments that recall Britten (strongly) as well as other composers, yet, having heard most of his music to this point, stands on its own with a stamp of recognizable individuality. There were snippets and melodies of things that I "thought" I knew, but were (much like Humperdinck with his Hansel und Gretel) wholly original - yet undeniably familiar. That's a nice gift.
The individual performances are, to a one, exemplary and the commitment each singer gives to his or her role is commendable and clear. Jay Hunter Morris stepped into some big shoes (Ben Heppner was the celebrated original Ahab) and does so admirably. With a more pointed sound and less sweetness of tone than Heppner, Morris presents a different Ahab, but no less formidable and his madness is, at times, appropriately unnerving.
Each of Ahab's crew members are immediately likable, each earning the audiences sympathies, none, so much (for this viewer) as Stephen Costello's Greenhorn. Costello's attractive if tightly wound vibrato imbues Greenhorn with the innocent melancholy of an orphan loner, and his growing attachment to the "savage" Queequeg and the friendship that ensues between the pair of loners is infinitely touching, their duet at the opening of the second act, an emotional and musical highlight. As Queequeg, baritone Jonathan Lemalu is going to be a tough act to follow for anyone replacing him. Of Polynesian island physicality, and elaborately tattooed from the face down, Lemalu's "savage" is noble, and in many ways, the most thoughtful and honest shipmate.
Talise Trevigne's clear, high flying soprano and impish size make her perfect as Pip the cabin boy (and she gets to fly!) Morgan Smith's Starbuck is likewise perfect, his great aria that closes Act 1 revealing his torturous moral dilemma of how to save his shipmates from Ahab the Mad.
Patrick Summers, a Heggie favorite, leads the San Francisco forces with assurance, driving the music furiously in its storm scenes while allowing his singers plenty of room for lyrical expansion - which Heggie gives his characters plenty of.
I was happy to learn that after 5 or 6 productions so far, "Moby Dick" will be playing at even more companies in the upcoming years - a promising sign.
The score is simply marvelous. Heggie was capable of delivering fresh melodic lines that made the entire opera fresh, enjoyable and plays with the audience's expectations. The sensitivity that is delivered is far beyond what I anticipated, and the rich colors and subtleties in the orchestration a truly work of art.
Although I enjoyed Scheer's libretto (outstanding in the way he reduced such massive work of literature to a 3hr piece keeping if truthful to the original story), there were only a few instances where I was surprised by his choice of words in relation to the music. But overall, a masterpiece!
Vocally, this production also benefited from having a very strong cast. The nuances and sensitivity of Stephen Costello's Greenhorn, and the wide range of emotions portrayed by Morgan Smith's Starbuck are standouts. The orchestra and chorus also take center stage with their beautiful playing/singing. Once again, Patrick Summers delivers a wonderful read of the difficult score to perform but one that is easy to enjoy.
This recently composed opera, which debuted in 2010, is a perfect example that modern music and lyrics can be appreciated by many opera-goers (and watchers). At some points, the music sounds familiar, although it is a totally new score - one which successfully reminds us of the oceanic setting of the story. The music and the production overall allow us to understand this whaling related story, which is not part of our present times, without the need to transpose it to modern times
This San Francisco production is excellent in all aspects. The singers are one by one to be commended for great acting and singing -- you can feel their total commitment to their roles. The light projections are a very clever way to trigger our imagination to the point where we see ourselves at sea with the crew without being overwhelmed and distracted from the lyrics and music. The interviews on the Bonus tab are worth watching, in large part to witness the excitement of all involved in the creation and production of Moby Dick – the Opera.
The sound and images are of very high quality, including the light projections on stage.
This Blu-Ray disc will be watched and enjoyed many times.