One of my favorite novels, Moby Dick was the last story I thought would ever be reimagined as an opera. To my delightful surprise, not only did it stick true to the original, but Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer gave it a new life. Back in Dallas after a wildly successful world tour that earned it the reputation as one of the best contemporary operas, Moby Dick is powerful yet tender.
Heggie's dynamic score emphasizes the novel's emotional undertones which no amount of words can describe. Scheer's libretto allows the audience to follow the story well, condensing a 600-page novel to an opera is no easy task. Each and every word matters, each and every scene. Moby Dick truly shines in its portrayal of interpersonal dynamics within the crew, from grandiose choirs, to heartfelt duets, to gripping arias. Bass-baritone Morgan Smith's Starbuck shines throughout the performance, the levelheaded yet torn first mate to the mad Captain Ahab, portrayed by Jay Hunter Morris. The current leading Wagnerian tenor, Morris exemplifies Ahab's madness skillfully using a broad range from insanity to moments of clarity. Morris' performance is enough to convince you he is the obsessed sea captain. Other strong performances include tenor Stephen Costello as Greenhorn and bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana as Queequeg. Their duets are always emotionally charged, an unexpected highlight of the opera. In the sea of testosterone, soprano Jacqueline Echols' portrayal of the cabin boy Pip is a welcome addition.
The Dallas Opera Music Director Emmanuel Villaume expertly conducts Heggie's score, alternating from grandiose orchestral pieces to a only a few instruments, as the situation demands. The visuals are nothing short of extraordinary. Direction by Keturah Stickann and projections by Elaine J. McCarthy come together for a fluid and lively stage. The scenes transition seamlessly, building tension and anticipation. A word to the wise, the intermission comes only after Act 2, so plan accordingly.
Overall, Moby Dick was a pleasure to watch, a breath of fresh air that combined most of the things I loved about the novel with stunning set design and transitions. You can still catch Moby Dick at one of the upcoming performances on November 12, 18, or 20. Tickets start at $19, purchase them here.