The finest Opera yet of the 21st c. Many may quibble that the set is static but then so are productions of Billy Budd and Flying Dutchman. The point is with all these operas that the movement is in the music and here we have movement with pathos and madness thrown in. I really enjoyed this production. Well done to all.
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This performance of Heggie's Moby-Dick is a spectacular and very approachable production, with a cast to match. Not much else to add other than try it. Excellent Sound be it in 5.1 surround or Stereo with Picture quality to match. Highly recommendable experience.
This set captures the stage experience well. As such it has much to recommend it. You won't get sea-sick tho as by large the deck stays on an even- keel despite the gales blowing. And of course it is no Billy Budd.
Herman Melville's novel "Moby-Dick" has fascinated composers, resulting in a number of large orchestral and vocal settings. This grand opera by the American composer Jake Heggie with libretto by Gene Scheer is the most recent attempt to transform Melville's profoundly tumultuous work into music. The opera premiered in Dallas in 2010 and has since already been performed in several venues. The San Francisco Opera directed by Patrick Summers presented the opera in 2012 and produced this DVD version.
The opera and production are stunning in every way. Heggie's music is both declamatory and lyrical. It is distinctly modern but accessible while capturing the varied aspects of life at sea. The music is passionate and tragic with moments of tenderness and playfulness. The crew dances. In one of the best scenes of the opera, Captain Ahab and his mate Starbuck reminisce about life at home. The music for this moment has a nostalgic quality. In other scenes Heggie captures Ahab's madness and obsession with the destruction it brings in its wake.
Gene Scheer's libretto condenses Melville's 600 page novel into about two and one-half hours of music. The opera is well-;paced and captures the spirit of Melville's masterpiece. The large opening section of "Moby-Dick" which takes place on land is omitted entirely as are the long passages in the novel on whaling and whales. The opera takes place entirely at sea with much of the action telescoped and condensed. Melville's famous opening sentence "Call me Ishmael" is transformed to the final sentence of the opera.
The staging of this opera presented a task. The setting captures the large, foreboding quality of the Pequod replete with the whaler's three tall masts. There are also scenes in the whaling boats with their harpooners and, of course, the large scene of destruction at the end. The settings were presented convincingly.
The vocal lines in this opera are difficult in range and mirror the speech patterns of the characters. Tenor Jay Hunter Morris rants and raves as Captain Ahab. In addition to his singing, Morris acts his role convincingly with his movements, gestures, and with the glints in his eye. Jonathan Lemalau offers a sympathetic portrayal of the harpooner Queequeg, his face and body replete with tattoos while Steven Costello plays "Greenhorn" or Ishmael, the lonely new crew member. Ismael's role in the opera is reduced from his central role as the narrator in Melville's novel. Morgan Smith portrays the anguished Starbuck and captures the first mate's moral dilemma when he is presented with the opportunity to kill his mad captain. The opera includes an expanded role for the cabinboy Pip, performed by the only female member of the cast, Talise Trevigne. With tambourine, "flying", and subtle commentary on the action Trevigne's Pip is a highlight of the production.
This set presents the entire opera on a single disk. The second disk consists of interviews with the composer, librettist, and several of the singers.
Heggie's "Moby-Dick" joins a growing list of American operas, including Joplin's "Treemonisha", Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess", and Copland's "The Tender Land", among others. It is the second opera in recent years setting an American classic, following Robert Aldridge's 2007 "Elmer Gantry" with libretto by Herschel Garfein. Heggie's "Moby-Dick" is a grand accomplishment in American opera.
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