The glorious stagecraft of ‘Moby-Dick’
Opera purists may consider this blasphemous, but the best of many wonderful things you can say about the Dallas Opera’s world premiere of Moby-Dick is: It’s as gloriously modern — even cinematic — as an opera can get. Cinematic isn’t a bad thing; movie scores are as close as most younger people come to classical music nowadays, and composer Jake Heggie, who’s not yet 50, seems to know that. His overture, and many of the motifs sprinkled throughout this lively adaptation of the literary classic, are as compellingly evocative as a summer action flick, full of exploratory chords and thrilling, curious, what-comes-next anticipation. You half expect Harrison Ford to drop from the yardarm.
It helps that the design, which incorporates tons of exceptional video, gives the whaling vessel Pequod a sense of movement you can hardly fathom would be possible onstage. The opening sequence, in which a field of stars slowly become constellations and sextant coordinates before morphing into an abstract version of the ship itself, generated spontaneous applause.
The vocal performances add to the exhilaration — the Act 1 quartet stands out, as does the Act 2 opener — but it’s the orchestral score (conducted masterfully by Patrick Summers) and director Leonard Foglia’s brilliant innovations that make Moby-Dick much more than some old fish story: It’s the unmissable theatrical event of the decade.
Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Through May 16. Visit DallasOpera.org for schedule.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 7, 2010.