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Together Again in Dallas — Those Moby-Dick Opera Creators

by Jerome Weeks 15 Sep 2010 4:52 PM

They’re back! Or actually, they will be. ‘Moby-Dick’ composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer have gotten a new commission from the Dallas Opera. It’s, ahem, somewhat smaller, though.


The Dallas Opera has commissioned Moby-Dick composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer to create an original song cycle for the opera’s 2011 Gala next April 8. The songs will be performed by baritone Nathan Gunn (right), who appeared in the opera’s revival of Don Pasquale, accompanied by his wife, pianist Julie Jordan Gunn.

The full release follows:










DALLAS, SEPTEMBER 15, 2010 – The Dallas Opera is exceptionally pleased and honored to announce a new commission for renowned composer Jake Heggie and critically acclaimed librettist Gene Scheer—their first new collaboration since the brilliant April 2010 world premiere of their modern American masterpiece: Moby-Dick.

While the possible subjects of the duo’s latest world premiere remain under wraps, patrons attending the Dallas Opera’s 2011 Gala on Friday, April 8, 2011 will be treated to a program that includes a brief song cycle, featuring luminous new music by Mr. Heggie and original text by Mr. Scheer.

“In addition to our stage works – the operas Moby-Dick, Three Decembers, To Hell and Back and the lyric drama For a Look or a Touch – Gene and I have collaborated on three song cycles: Friendly Persuasions, Rise and Fall, and Statuesque,” explains Jake Heggie.  “The latter cycles used great artworks as inspiration for the poetry and music.  Though we haven’t yet settled what these new songs will be about, we are considering several enticing subjects and are determined to create something that is particularly meaningful to the Dallas Opera family.”

The commissioned works will be sung by one of the foremost interpreters of new American music today: baritone Nathan Gunn, in the remarkable acoustics of the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center.

“After the tremendous experience of Moby-Dick this year, what a thrill it is to be coming back so soon to the Dallas Opera to make music at the glorious Winspear Opera House,” says Mr. Heggie.  “Gene Scheer and I are deeply honored and touched to have been invited to return—and especially to do so by writing a set of songs for the great American baritone Nathan Gunn.

“He is a favorite artist of mine, an extraordinary singer, and somebody I’ve been   aching to write for.”

Mr. Gunn, who recently earned outstanding reviews in the Dallas Opera’s 2010 revival of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, will be accompanied by the composer himself at this world premiere performance, and by his wife, pianist/arranger Julie Jordan Gunn, throughout the remainder of the program.

“Besides being a tremendous celebration of the work, mission and impact of the Dallas Opera on the North Texas community,” says Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny, “the 2011 Gala is a vitally important fund-raiser; our chance to raise public awareness of the contributions this company makes to the civic and cultural life of Dallas and to underscore the necessity for widespread, generous support.”

Adds Mr. Cerny, “There is no better way to demonstrate what the Dallas Opera adds to the local quality of life than to—once more—bring together the brilliant artists who gave this region its latest, greatest musical success for an exciting encore.”

“Whether creating a large piece or a small piece, there is a beginning, a middle and an end,” explains Gene Scheer.  “I’ve heard Stephen Sondheim say that the thing all good songs share is a sense of surprise.  It’s a way of awakening listeners to remember what they’ve forgotten, or, to learn something new.  I think that’s what we’ll be looking for in each one of these songs, the opportunity to take the audience on a personal journey.

“It’s no less thrilling than writing an opera.  If the moment works and you feel like you’ve been able to say something—and say it beautifully—it’s incredibly rewarding,” Scheer adds.

The Dallas Opera Gala in the Winspear Opera House, one of the more glittering highlights of the spring social season in its elegant new surroundings, now has the added luster of a world premiere performance.  Tickets to the gala dinner and entertainment begin at $1,000 per person.  Table sponsorships begin at $20,000 and include invitations to an exclusive patron party, the Dallas Opera Gala, and premium table placement.

For more information, contact Dallas Opera Special Events Manager Morgan Vaughn at 214.443.1063 or [email protected].

Artist Bios:

Nathan Gunn

Nathan Gunn created the roles of Clyde Griffiths in the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy at the Metropolitan Opera, Father Delura in Peter Eötvös’ Love and Other Demons at the Glyndebourne Opera Festival, and Alec Harvey in André Previn’s Brief Encounter at Houston Grand Opera. Recent roles include Malatesta in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale in Dallas, Figaro in Rossini’s Barber of Seville and Belcore in Donizetti’s Elisir d’amore in Los Angeles, the title role in Britten’s Billy Budd in Bilbao, Tarquinius in Britten’s Rape of Lucretia in Philadelphia, and Papageno in Mozart’s Zauberflöte at the Met. Gunn’s other roles include Zurga in Bizet’s Pêcheurs de perles, the title role in Thomas’s Hamlet, Guglielmo in Mozart’s Così fan tutte (in Dallas and elsewhere), and the Count in Mozart’s Nozze di Figaro. Gunn has also sung at San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Royal Opera Covent Garden, Opéra National de Paris, Bayerische Staatsoper, and Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, and in concerts with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and London Symphony Orchestra. Gunn has appeared at Seattle Opera in Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas as Ríobolo and in Die Zauberflöte as Papageno.

Julie Jordan Gunn

An associate professor of accompanying at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Dr. Gunn is a music director, vocal coach, song arranger and leader in the promotion of American arts.  She designs and performs song cycles and has appeared on many prestigious series in recent years, including the Carnegie Hall Pure Voice Series, Lincoln Center Great Performers, London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, Brussels Theatre de la Monnaie, the 92nd Street Y, University of Chicago Presents, San Francisco Performances, Broad Stage in Santa Monica, Oberlin College, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.  In 2008, she had the privilege of playing a private recital for members of the U.S. Supreme Court.  Dr. Gunn has also served on the music staff of the Metropolitan Opera Young Artist Program, Wolf Trap Opera, St. Louis Opera Theatre, Southern Methodist University, Opera North and Chicago Opera Theater.  She has also conducted master classes at universities and young artist programs across the U.S., including Houston Grand Opera Studio.  She solicits and programs the work of emerging and established American songwriters and is proud to have been the music director of her husband Nathan Gunn’s solo disc, Just Before Sunrise (Sony/BMG) which included arrangements of songs by Gene Scheer, Ben Moore, Joe Thalken, Billy Joel, Sting and Charles Ives.

Jake Heggie

Jake Heggie is the American composer of the operas Moby-Dick, Dead Man Walking, Three Decembers, The End of the Affair, To Hell and Back and the stage works For a Look or a Touch and At the Statue of Venus.  He has also composed more than 200 art songs, as well as orchestral, choral and chamber music.  His recent recording of songs and duets, PASSING BY: Songs by Jake Heggie, features performances by Isabel Bayrakdarian, Zheng Cao, Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Paul Groves, Keith Phares and Frederica von Stade.  Heggie is the 2010-11 guest artist-in-residence at the University of North Texas at Denton where he will compose his first symphony, based on several Ahab monologues from the novel Moby-Dick.  The “Ahab” Symphony will receive its premiere in 2012 with tenor Richard Croft as soloist.  Other current projects include commissions for Carnegie Hall, San Francisco Performances and Houston Grand Opera; as well as a one-act opera for chorus for the John Alexander Singers and the Pacific Chorale, and a new version of For a Look or a Touch featuring the 200-voice Seattle Men’s Chorus.  Heggie’s operas have been performed to tremendous acclaim internationally in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Austria, South Africa and at more than a dozen American opera companies.