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The Big Guy’s Coming Back.

by Jerome Weeks 4 Apr 2014 10:25 PM

The Dallas Opera is bringing back its world-premiere production of Moby-Dick in 2016.


phpceBjV4PMBen Heppner as Capt. Ahab  in the Dallas Opera production of Moby-Dick. Photo credit: Karen Almond. Photo credit outfront: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The Dallas Opera is bringing back its world-premiere production of Moby-Dick. Six years after it debuted to acclaim at the Winspear Opera House, the Jake Heggie-Gene Scheer opera will return – for a limited engagement, November 4, 2016. Of course, he’ll just about have circumnavigated the world by then, having spouted in San Francisco, Canada and Australia and appeared on PBS. It’ll be a somewhat different cast, though (no Ben Heppner, above, as Ahab, but a number of the originals will return).  And this time, the Dallas Opera’s new music director, Emmanuel Villaume, will be at the helm.


Here’s the full release:


Starring Jay Hunter Morris as Ahab, Stephen Costello as Greenhorn, Morgan Smith as Starbuck, Jonathan Lemalu as Queequeg and many more from the original all-star cast – conducted by Music Director Emmanuel Villaume!

Opening November 4, 2016 in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center

DALLAS, APRIL 4, 2014 – The Dallas Opera tonight capped a phenomenally successful season with the announcement that the original Leonard Foglia production of composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer’s powerful twenty-first century masterpiece, MOBY-DICK, will be returning to the site of its triumphant 2010 world premiere. This limited engagement will begin on Friday, November 4, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center.

MOBY-DICK, a critically acclaimed contemporary opera based on the epic novel by Herman Melville, will be conducted by our esteemed music director, Emmanuel Villaume. The production has also inspired the return of many of the artists who created these iconic roles, including tenor Stephen Costello as “Greenhorn,” baritone Morgan Smith as “Starbuck” and New Zealand bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu as the mysterious “Queequeg.”

The announcement was made this evening at the Dallas Opera’s annual Spring Gala, dubbed “A Texas Homecoming,” in which tenor Jay Hunter Morris – the star of the Dallas Opera’s current production of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Die tote Stadt (“The Dead City”) performed before an audience of enraptured patrons, as well as area high school and university fine arts students.

“I have a special affection for Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s masterpiece,” explained Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny. “I consider it one of the finest operas of recent years and it originated here in Dallas. The experience was electrifying for those lucky enough to secure tickets for that original 2010 world premiere—a production which sent shock waves throughout the music world and, subsequently, was performed to great acclaim from Adelaide, Australia to San Francisco and beyond.


“What a thrill it is to announce that Jay Hunter Morris, the renowned Heldentenor who inherited the mantle of Captain Ahab from Ben Heppner, will command the Pequod once more when it returns to its ‘home port’ in 2016.”

The original production opened on April 30, 2010 in the Winspear Opera House and made a splash heard around the world:

“Surprise. When it opened on April 30 (2010), Moby-Dick turned out to be the hit of the season…about as popular as a new opera can get.”

– Anne Midgette, The Washington Post

“…Mr. Heggie’s opera was an undeniable success: The end of its maiden voyage was greeted with a sustained, rousing ovation, with shredded programs fluttering down from the highest seating level. The strongest response was reserved for Mr. Heggie and Mr. Scheer, received at the end with a triumphal roar.”

– Steve Smith, The New York Times

“It’s glorious and it’s gripping; it’s grand – and it’s good! Heggie — assisted by his seasoned librettist Gene Scheer — has achieved something with Moby-Dick that American opera has not experienced in a long time: they have created a work of quality that should garner itself an immediate place in the repertory of opera houses around the world.”

– Opera Today

“Everyone exhale now. Moby-Dick, the opera, is a triumph.”

– Scott Cantrell, The Dallas Morning News

“Along with a new opera, a new chapter in opera history may have opened Friday night at the Winspear Opera House.”

– Wayne Lee Gay, D magazine

“…what is probably one of the most successful new operas to reach the stage in the past quarter century.”

– William Littler, The Toronto Star

“The opera works cannily with Melville’s central themes of obsession, innocence and alienation. It zeroes in on Captain Ahab’s mad pursuit of the white whale that robbed him of his leg, and Ahab’s antagonist, the religious first mate Starbuck, who tries fervently to convince the captain of the godless folly of that quest.”

– Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal

“…an achingly beautiful, magnificently sung and gorgeously staged world premiere of his Moby-Dick, the highlight of the Dallas Opera’s first season at the sparkling new Winspear Opera House. The audience responded with an eight-minute standing ovation.”

– Ronald Blum, Associated Press

“Not only do I suspect that “Moby Dick” will propel Heggie to the first rank of the extraordinary current crop of contemporary American opera composers, I believe that it quite possibly…will become the most popular opera written so far during our young century.”

– William Burnett, Opera Warhorse

“Dallas Opera pulled off a coup de théâtre…Gene Scheer’s libretto reduced Melville’s epic to manageable size and made its essence clear even to a viewer-listener with no knowledge of the original…the special effects did not, for one moment, detract or distract from the music drama inherent in libretto and score, or from the emotional and psychological depths of Heggie and Scheer’s redaction of Melville’s characters. Talk about a Gesamtkunstwerk: the production made sense.”

– Willard Spiegelman, Opera News

“Moby-Dick makes gripping musical theater…The physical production is simply magnificent. A whole team of designers, animators, projectionists and programmers creates a high-tech world that keeps the sea a brooding presence and gives the opera’s climactic moments an almost physical power.”

– Olin Chism, Art & Seek/KERA

“…a performance that was sumptuously played and sung at the rapturously received premiere.”

– George Loomis, The Financial Times

“…powerful and emotionally irresistible new work.”

– Joshua Kosman, The San Francisco Chronicle

“The Dallas Opera certainly did right by this one. The casting was stunning — I’ve seldom heard such a uniformly strong cast — and the production (directed by Leonard Foglia) was smart and theatrical.”

– Anne Midgette, The Washington Post

“Ribbons of silken melody…the score unfolded majestically, never rushed yet never meandering, the dramatic incidents clearly set off within the greater flow.”

– Matthew Gurewitsch,

“The Dallas Opera ventured into the deep with its world premiere of Moby-Dick and returned to the surface a winner.”

– James Bash, Oregon Music News

“…a massive artistic accomplishment.”

– Gary Cogill, WFAA-TV

“…reveals a composer whose depth and sophistication is growing with time, and the music world is the better for it.”

– Dean Cassella, Fort Worth Renaissance

“Earlier this month I saw the future of opera. It is Moby-Dick at Dallas’ Winspear Opera House.”

– John P. Greenan, City Walk Talk

Since that time, MOBY-DICK has continued to earn rave reviews. It was experienced by a national television audience late last year as part of the PBS “Great Performances” series. The composer and librettist have maintained their productive association with the Dallas Opera. Librettist Gene Scheer is currently at work with British composer Joby Talbot on a world premiere opera entitled EVEREST, coming to the Dallas Opera in January of 2015. Composer Jake Heggie and librettist Terrence McNally are creating a new opera for mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato – GREAT SCOTT – scheduled to open the Dallas Opera’s 2015-2016 Season.