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Utah Opera’s Moby-Dick

New Locally Created Production About to Set Sail

Christie Giles | Artwork and photos courtesy of Utah Opera Jan 11, 2018

Christopher McBeth remembers with perfect clarity standing outside a Dallas theater on an April evening in 2010 after witnessing the world premiere of the opera, Moby-Dick. “It was immediately clear we had a new classic American opera. I knew everyone who saw it would love it,” says McBeth, Utah Opera artistic director.

Based on the great American novel of the same name, the opera’s premiere production was as epic as the main character’s unrelenting obsession for revenge with amazing storytelling, a sweeping and gorgeously detailed musical score, and astonishing visual effects. Reviewers described it as “powerful,” “emotionally irresistible,” “vibrant” and “compelling.”

But its astounding visual effects had a significant downside. A heavy dependence on technology and an enormous set meant only a half-dozen opera companies could fit the massive production on their stages. “I thought, isn’t it too bad the production of this marvelous opera limits it from having wider exposure to audiences around the country?” McBeth says.

Flash forward seven years. Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s opera adaptation of Herman Melville’s classic novel is widely considered the most significant opera of the century to date, and the Utah Opera is creating an entirely new production of it. Moby-Dick, two years in the making, will premiere at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City for five performances from Jan. 20-28.

An Entirely New Production

“It’s been 10 years since the Utah Opera has been in a position to create a production completely from the ground up,” McBeth says. “Performing arts have had a rough go of it over the past decade, so it’s appropriate that as we get back to creating new productions, that we start with something of Moby-Dick’s significance. It’s a great demonstration of how supportive our community is of the arts and what we can accomplish with that support.”

That support includes donations from generous community sponsors and grants. In addition, Moby-Dick is co-produced with the Pittsburg Opera, Opera San José and Chicago Opera Theater.

Stage sets under construction for the opera Moby-Dick
Stage set being painted by worker backstage at theater

Something for Everyone

Whether you’re an opera fan or a newcomer, Moby-Dick promises to inspire you. “Moby-Dick has something for everyone: human nature and obsession, man versus nature, honor versus duty, and friendship overcoming all odds,” McBeth says. “It has the visuals, the architecture, the orchestra and the Olympic athletes of vocalism that are our singers. Salt Lake City is in for a treat.”

Tickets are on sale now at utahopera.org.

Know Before You Go

  • Moby-Dick is performed in English with English supertitles.
  • An estimated 50 percent of the libretto (the text of the opera) for Moby-Dick came directly from author Herman Melville’s words.
  • The production features an all-male cast, except for the cabin boy, Pip, played by a soprano.
  • The Ahab role is sung with one leg tied up and resting on a peg.
  • Stage director Kristine McIntyre (a favorite with Utah audiences) will collaborate with Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company artistic director Daniel Charon to enhance the storytelling of the cast through dance.

     

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