There's no hit single coming out of Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick—that's what a few of us agreed on last night after watching San Diego Opera's dress rehearsal of the new piece, which opens Saturday, Feb. 18.
The music, in other words, isn't something you'll be humming or whistling to yourself later. It's more like intense mood music that transitions from sounding like the swelling of the sea to the blowhole of a whale. It helps set the scene, transporting you onto The Pequod with Captain Ahab (Ben Hepner), Queequeg (Jonathan Lemalu), Starbuck (Morgan Smith), Pip (Talise Trevigne) and the rest of the crew.
So, what will opera-goers be talking about when they leave Moby-Dick? In the opinion of this admitted opera novice—who can count on a pinky-less, thumb-less hand how many times she's seen a big-time production—I'd say that they'll focus on what CityBeat writer Jim Ruland so wonderfully described in his preview piece this week: the epic stage design. ---
There are no over-sized animatronic whales, but there are plenty of impressive moving parts.
So let me get to it: the easy-to-digest list of three things that, on top of the excitement you'll get from simply watching the stage do its thing, might make Moby-Dick worth your while:
1. It's brand-spanking new. In the world of opera, where the word "modern" means something that wasn't made a zillion years ago, this is exciting stuff. You never know when you'll have another chance to see a hot-off-the-presses opera.
2. Can you imagine the task of turning Herman Melville's epic novel into a three-hour opera? I can't. But the tale's been boiled down to a libretto that's indeed interesting and, at times, poetic. Check out these lines:
Take heart! Take heart!
From these malicious waves, we'll part! We'll part!
To the shoreless warmth of the equator.
Where the world divides in two,
Where North meets South at the equator
Is where we shall pursue:
Whales and wealth!
3. Thank goodness for soprano Talise Trevigne, who, in her pants-role as Pip, cuts through the male-dominated voices and adds a sweet layer of sound. There's a lot of bubbling testosterone on the stage and rightly so—it's Moby-Dick after all—but Trevigne is a welcomed addition who brings out the nice ahhh moments in a piece that is otherwise filled with curt Ayes!