Jonathan Pell, Summer of Opera, Part 24

by Megan Meister

The banner across the front of the opera house.

I am in Adelaide, and last night was the triumphant Australian premiere of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s MOBY-DICK at the State Opera of South Australia.  The reviews aren’t out yet, but if the audience response is any indication, the production will be as big a hit here as it was in Dallas.

It is gratifying to see and hear all the credit that The Dallas Opera is receiving for instigating the commission of the opera and putting together this international conssortium of producing companies.

The “Pequod” next drops anchor in January at the Calgary Opera, then San Diego in February, and then San Francisco in October.  Four other American opera companies have expressed interest in taking the production, so its future seems assured.

The production is the same as was seen in Dallas, but only one member of the original cast is here, Jonathan Lemalu, who created the role of “Queequeg” and he is even more touching now, having really grown in the role.

Jay Hunter Morris strapped on the wooden leg to assume the role of “Captain Ahab” and was sensational.  Jay, who is originally from Paris, Texas, studied at Baylor and SMU, and got his start in the Dallas Opera chorus.  He has sung several leading roles for us over the years, including “Steva” in JENUFA and “Bacchus” in ARIADNE, but nothing he has done, including a remarkable young “SIEGFRIED” in the San Francisco RING earlier this summer, prepared me for this powerful portrayal of a man driven mad by obsession.

The original production team, director Leonard Foglia, assistant director and choreographer Keturah Stickann, and designers Robert Brill and Jane Greenwood, were all here to supervise.  Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer were here, too, to bask in their well deserved ovations.  The cheers when they came on stage at the end of the curtain calls were deafening !

The rest of the cast here were all Australian, and created a marvelous ensemble.  Special praise must be given to the wonderful chorus who were prepared by Timothy Sexton, who also conducted the performance.   Tim is not only the chorus master and conductor, but has recently been made the CEO of the opera company, so he had a lot “riding” on the success of the production.  I think he can relax now.  MOBY-DICK was a huge success !  One might even say “It was a whale of a show !”

A reunion brunch on the morning of the first performance of MOBY-DICK in Adelaide, organized by Jonathan Lemalu, lower left, then me, Keturah Stickann, Jane Greenwood, Gene Scheer's wife Christina, and then continuing around the table, Gene Scheer and Robert Brill (both blocked from view) Leonard Foglia and Jake Heggie.

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