By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
Commissioning a new opera is always a risky venture, so you have to congratulate the four companies that together underwrote Moby-Dick, a retelling of the famous Herman Melville story by composer Jake Hegge (most famous before for Dead Man Walking) and librettist, Gene Scheer. It opened last Friday at the Dallas Opera to many laudatory reviews from critics around the country who made the trek to Texas (see below for a sampling).
The other commissioning companies were San Diego Opera, where it is scheduled to play in February 2012, San Francisco (fall 2012), the State Opera South Australia (September 2011); and Calgary Opera (winter 2012).
That type of success puts extra pressure on Los Angeles Opera’s upcoming world premiere of Daniel Catán’s opera Il Postino, based on the 1994 award-winning movie, which will open at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on September 23. This is a co-commission with Theater an der Wien (Vienna) and Théâtre du Châtelet (Paris). LAO’s record with commissioning operas has been spotty (to be charitable) so one hopes Il Postino will turn out to be as well-received as Moby-Dick.
One wonders, however, whether Moby-Dick will have sea legs, so to speak. Ricky Gordon’s operatic treatment of John Steinbeck’s famous novel, The Grapes of Wrath, opened to positive reviews in 2007 in Minneapolis and a year later in Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh. Since then? Nothing.
Moby-Dick reviews include
• Heidi Waleson in the Wall St. Journal HERE
• Steve Smith in the New York Times HERE
• Anne Midgette in the Washington Post HERE
• Joshua Kosman in the San Francisco Chronicle HERE
(c) Copyright 2010, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.