The opening night audience at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion came expecting a fabulous evening and had their high expectations met when the cast of “Moby-Dick” took the stage and made the LA Opera production a technically challenging success. Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, the composer and librettist, have rendered a remarkable operatic version based on the famed Herman Melville novel.
Along with amazing direction by Leonard Foglia, 21st century special effects projected by Elaine J. McCarthy, scenery design by Robert Brill and costumes by Jane Greenwood, this presentation is a grand opera for contemporary audiences. James Conlon’s and Grant Gershon’s conducting and choral direction were superb as was the virtuosic performance of the orchestra.
The story of Captain Ahab’s determination to find and kill the white whale Moby-Dick for severing his leg without any consideration for the lives of his crew that serve under him is a study of anger, madness and his single-minded drive for revenge. Jay Hunter Morris did a magnificent job with the role and clearly convinced the audience of his maddening focus, pain and anguish of having a peg leg and his revenge. The tenor from Texas wore what must have been an excruciating peg leg prosthetic for nearly 3 hours but was clearly up to the challenge of standing on it and being mobile while delivering his singing part to perfection.
Among the many glorious musical, singing/acting, and special effects highlights of the evening were the massive nautical sets, dazzling visual effects, the beautiful score, and a talented cast. Special attention should be given to the Overture conducted by James Conlon, Starbuck’s aria at the end of Act One sung by Morgan Smith, the duet sung by Captain Ahab and Starbuck in Act Two, Pip’s underwater near-drowning scene and her aria. Greenhorn played by Joshua Guerrero and Queequeg played by Musa Ngqungwana also deserve special attention for their superb singing as does Jacqueline Echols’ as Pip, Captain Ahab’s cabin boy.
The dazzling projections and special effects of water, the Pequod ship, the whaleboats and the drowning of the crew scenes were spellbinding and captivated the audience. Gavan Swift’s excellent lighting design set the scenes’ various moods for Moby-Dick’s destruction of the whaleboats and the Pequod, the enormous storm/bolts of lightning and other events associated with sailing the tumultuous ocean as well as the emotional interaction of the crew.
Sung in English, the opera offers an exceptional contemporary version of Melville’s classic novel and is a grand opera for 21st century audiences. LA Opera’s presentation of Moby Dick runs October 31 – November 28, 2015. For more information, please visit the LA Opera website.