Leading Off (5/3/10): Water, Water Everywhere

The whale, the whale. What about the whale? Well:

1. Jake Heggie had it easy, says the New York Times. Imagine distilling Melville’s novel into a three hour stage piece, the task Gene Schere had; or tenor Ben Heppner playing a lead in a single shoe; or Robert Brill imagining how to sail and sink the Pequod, or Elaine McCarthy’s show-carrying digital effects. Yeah, three hours of compelling and accessible operatic scoring (with its “Debussy, Wagner and Hollywood”). Not a thing.

2. Ahab, mind you, despite Ben Heppner’s “sneers, puffs and pontificates” never kills his white whale. Jake Heggie, says the Associated Press, caught his fish, “with an achingly beautiful, magnificently sung and gorgeously staged world premiere of his Moby-Dick.”

 3. Tireless Scott Cantrell (the only critic who had to run out of the orchestra seating during the eight-minute ovation to file his piece, God bless him) said Heggie “relies a little too often on hypnotic minimalist accompaniments, but in general his orchestral and choral writing are fine-tuned to the drama and often beautiful. He achieves lushness with often complex harmonies and counterpoints.”

 4.On Art & Seek, Olin Chism said it was easy to spot how to trim the novel down to operatic size, but Gene Scheer’s accomplishment was no less spectacular.

 5. And last, but not in the least bit least: D Magazine’s own Wayne Lee Gay said a new chapter in the history of opera was opened last Friday – for better or for worse: “Live opera will never surpass the cinema when it comes to making children fly or mountains crumble, particularly in an era when computer graphics can make anything appear to happen. But Moby Dick proved that a fine score, performed by an ensemble of great singers and instrumentalists, can, in combination with vividly imagined, well-executed special effects and computer graphics, produce a thrilling emotional response. Opera as spectacle is as old as opera itself. . . . But the extraordinary and ongoing refinement of computer graphics has created amazing new possibilities. . . . So far, the integration of computer graphics with live, acoustical, dramatic performances has been tentative: with Moby Dick, the computerized visual effects and the music are inseparable on an unprecedented level.”

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