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Tying Down Some Moby-Dick Details


by Jerome Weeks 29 Apr 2010

Inevitably, one of the great points of curiosity about the Dallas Opera’s production of Moby-Dick has always been, how are they going to do it? How are they going to convey life aboard a whaling ship? A ship in an electrical storm? How are they going to depict a whale-boat chase? And does Moby Dick […]

CTA TBD

Inevitably, one of the great points of curiosity about the Dallas Opera’s production of Moby-Dick has always been, how are they going to do it? How are they going to convey life aboard a whaling ship? A ship in an electrical storm? How are they going to depict a whale-boat chase? And does Moby Dick himself make a cameo?

Since last year, composer Jake Heggie and lyricist Gene Scheer have been cagey with details, saying, for the most part, their job was just to give their director, Leonard Foglia, their vision of Melville’s novel as an opera, and let him figure out how to make it work. And Foglia has been far too busy trying to figure all this out to go into any of those details. The opera opens Friday — and some things are still being hashed out, it seems.

Well, the Wall Street Journal has some of the details, saying that “the real star—with apologies to the tenor Ben Heppner’s Captain Ahab—may be the production itself, which Mr. Foglia helped conceive, serving as dramaturge prior to directing.”

Mr. Foglia, who became involved in the production two years ago when he and Messrs. Heggie and Scheer were working on a musical play in Houston, has made it a priority to minimize the distance between audience and action, which he is trying to depict from a seaman’s perspective. His “you are there” approach means rendering certain aspects of the voyage in novel ways. “The sails reach into the wings of the stage because if you’re on the ship, the sail would be right here,” he said, placing his hand in my face. “You couldn’t step back. And that’s why I wanted to get into the whale boats rather than sing about whale boats” …

But we could have figured out much of this: Sails and masts and rigging are going to be major factors. And in interviews this week, Foglia is still playing some cards close to his chest — in particular, the Big Reveal:

As for the title character, the great white whale’s presence on stage is not assured. “I haven’t decided whether it’s more interesting to see or not see,” the director said. “It’s the Alfred Hitchcock rule. You know, the way people swore they saw Janet Leigh getting stabbed in ‘Psycho,’ even though they never did. It’s the thought of something happening that makes it really memorable.”

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