Back by Popular Demand – Moby-Dick!

by Celeste Hart

Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s 2010 Masterpiece

Returns to the Company That Commissioned the Opera



Curtain Time, 7:30 p.m.

The Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House

At The AT&T Performing Arts Center


Additional Performances Nov. 6(m), 9, 12, 18 & 20(m)


With Generous Support From

The Carol Franc Buck Foundation

And the National Endowment for the Arts

DALLAS, OCTOBER 7, 2016 – The Dallas Opera is very proud to present the eagerly anticipated revival of an historic Dallas Opera production: Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s critically acclaimed twenty-first century masterpiece: MOBY-DICK, starring world-renowned heldentenor Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab.

The production will open with the Rosemary and Roger Enrico Foundation Performance 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 (2403 Flora St. in the Dallas Arts District).  Ticket prices start at just $19 (call 214.443.1000 or visit

Moby-Dick set a new standard for contemporary opera when it first took North Texas audiences by storm in 2010.  This revival of the universally acclaimed original production incorporates an epic set design by Robert Brill, stunning video projections by Elaine J. McCarthy, and period-authentic costumes designed by Jane Greenwood with lighting by Gavan Swift.

Heggie’s sweeping, neo-Romantic score will be performed by The Dallas Opera Orchestra and The Dallas Opera Chorus, as well as a host of international stars.

“This is a proud moment for the company.  Besides the exciting opportunity to showcase Texas tenor, Jay Hunter Morris, in one of his very favorite roles,” explains Keith Cerny, the Kern Wildenthal General Director and CEO, “it’s a special thrill to bring Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s masterpiece back to the Winspear Opera House stage, where this opera was born.

“Having just come to Texas six years ago as the general director and CEO, I will never forget the tremendous response from Dallas Opera audiences to this world premiere.  Clearly, music critics and patrons alike were enthralled; from Jake’s Prelude, accompanied by Elaine McCarthy’s morphing projections of a star field, to the poignant final notes of this stunning production.

“I consider Moby-Dick one of the finest operas of the past thirty years,” Mr. Cerny adds.  “For all these reasons, and more, I was determined to revive this production for North Texas audiences to enjoy – at least one more time.”

The Dallas Opera’s Moby-Dick is presented with generous support from The Carol Franc Buck Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts


Mrs. Eugene McDermott Music Director Emmanuel Villaume, who conducts this revival, recently earned rave reviews for his podium artistry at this summer’s Santa Fe Opera Festival.  Maestro Villaume, conducting La fanciulla del West, was praised by Opera Warhorses for giving audiences “a passionate, rousing performance with a melodramatic sweep that suggested a deep appreciation by Villaume of Puccini’s score.”

Heidi Waleson of The Wall Street Journal noted that “Emmanuel Villaume conducted with sweep and urgency.”

His work at The Dallas Opera last season inspired Scott Cantrell of The Dallas Morning News to write that “Villaume does an impressive job of coordinating both singers and orchestra in some very complicated music.” 

“Keith Cerny and I are excited to program works that patrons have longed to experience just as much as we do. My energies are devoted to sharing this most relevant and revealing of art forms with North Texas and all the world,” explains Maestro Villaume.

“We invite everyone to join us in the magnificent Winspear Opera House, to experience the musicianship and incomparable artistry that can only be fully appreciated in an outstanding live performance.”


MOBY-DICK, a production by Leonard Foglia originally commissioned and produced by The Dallas Opera, “opened in a blaze of glory” in 2010.  In the years since, it has been met with thunderous applause and critical acclaim in ports of call all around the world.

Composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer based their work on Herman Melville’s sprawling, epic tale of Captain Ahab’s obsession with a great white whale—and the destruction it brings upon his crew.  The opera splendidly illustrates the danger, tensions, and exhilaration of life aboard a 19th century whaling ship, as shipmates battle the harsh forces of nature in addition to Ahab’s brewing madness.

“The creation of Moby-Dick remains so incredibly vivid, fresh and joyful to me that it’s almost impossible to believe it has been six and a half years since The Dallas Opera premiere. It was easily one of the most meaningful and exciting times in my life. The joyful and adventurous spirit in the company and the community was inspiring,” writes composer Jake Heggie.  

The result of our combined work was more than we could ever have imagined: an immense success for the company, and a powerful new American opera that has since traveled to Australia, Canada and across the USA. The memorable East Coast premiere was at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. with several Supreme Court justices in attendance. Moby-Dick will soon be on its way to Europe, as well. A DVD was made at the San Francisco Opera and the production was telecast nationally on PBS as a featured part of Great Performances’ 40th Anniversary Season.

“Friends, this is truly rare for a new American opera!!

Moby-Dicks return to Dallas is no less remarkable, for it is rare indeed that a new opera returns this soon to its company of origin (i.e. Dead Man Walking has yet to return to the San Francisco Opera since its premiere 16 years ago). But soon we will see Ahab, Starbuck, Greenhorn, Queequeg and the crew of the Pequod return home to the great Winspear Opera House in the original magical, breathtaking production by Leonard Foglia, Robert Brill, Elaine McCarthy and all. Another milestone in the life of an American opera that Dallas can truly claim as its own,” adds Mr. Heggie. 


George Loomis of the Financial Times (U.K.) raved that audiences “…can warm to Heggie’s musically lush, aptly proportioned and forthrightly tonal score (which) also boasts striking melodies, vivid atmospheric scenes and vocal lines capable of showing off voices.”

Texas-born Tenor Jay Hunter Morris will star in the role of Captain Ahab, which has become a signature role for the Dallas Opera favorite. Hailed as a force of nature in his portrayal, “…he sang with pressurized fury that practically shook the seats of the…Opera House,” exclaimed Richard Scheinin of the San Jose Mercury News.

“Enduring three hours strapped into a peg leg, Morris sang the heldentenor role with the dramatic intensity of a man possessed, tempered by the character of a stoic New Englander.  It was an admirable interpretation,” wrote Jane Rosenberg of Seen and Heard International.

The Marnie and Kern Wildenthal Principal Artist, Stephen Costello, “bright-toned, sympathetic” returns to The Dallas Opera to reprise his role as Greenhorn. David Patrick Stearns of Gramophone (U.K.) reviewed the tenor’s poignant performance on the San Francisco Opera DVD; “Singing with more ease and richness of tone than anytime previously, Stephen Costello (Greenhorn) projects a sense of profound personal revelation in the final moments when, rescued at sea, he owns his own name (‘Call me Ishmael’).

Baritone Morgan Smith also reprises his role as Starbuck for which he earned unanimous critical acclaim. Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle touted his performance as joining “vocal splendor, moral authority and deep empathy in a phenomenal combination.”

Scott Cantrell of The Dallas Morning News also singled out his portrayal for special praise: “Morgan Smith’s strong, dense baritone perfectly suits the sturdy Quaker Starbuck.”

Making his Dallas Opera debut is up-and-coming South African bass-baritone, Musa Ngqungwana, made possible with support from The Charron and Peter Denker Rising Stars Endowment Fund. Maria Nockin of Opera Today wrote Mr. Ngqungwana portrayed “an intense, commanding Queequeg whose musings showed the spiritual side of the voyage.”


MOBY-DICK was originally directed in 2010 by Leonard Foglia, who later staged the critically acclaimed 2015 world premiere of Joby Talbot and Gene Scheer’s Everest. According to Heidi Waleson of The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Foglia’s “staging brilliantly captured the immediacy and peril of the piece.”  Keturah Stickann, who also worked on the original 2010 production, will direct the 2016 revival of Mr. Foglia’s landmark production.

“It is particularly gratifying to bring Moby-Dick back to The Dallas Opera,” writes librettist Gene Scheer.

“Jake and I worked on the piece for about two-and-a-half years before handing it over to the gifted artists who would interpret our work.

“One never quite knows what one has—until a piece is being performed before an audience.  Opening night of Moby-Dick (the world premiere in 2010) is something I’ll never forget.

“About 90 minutes before the curtain went up, I went into the Winspear Opera House with little gifts for the production team, working intently at the production table on the lighting for Act Two.  The challenges were formidable, the clock was ticking, and everyone was completely focused on using every possible moment to realize our collective vision for the piece.

“I walked behind director Leonard Foglia, lighting designer Don Holder, set designer Robert Brill, and projections designer Elaine McCarthy—leaving a little gift with each one.  To this day, I doubt they knew where those gifts came from, since they were completely focused on the stage (and only the stage!).

Moby-Dick was embraced and supported in a stunning fashion by the people working at The Dallas Opera.  It is a particular pleasure to have the piece return to the place where it began, not only to celebrate the success of this opera, but to celebrate the incredible effort and dedication of all those who made it possible.”


Sung in English, with English language translations projected above the stage, MOBY-DICK can be experienced at any of five additional performances: November 6(m), 9, 12, 18 & 20(m), 2016 in the Winspear Opera House with tickets starting at just $19.  Tickets may be purchased online, 24/7, at or by contacting the friendly professionals in The Dallas Opera Ticket Services Office at 214.443.1000.








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