By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
Usually cancellations play havoc with performing arts organizations but occasionally someone gets lucky. Count San Diego Opera in the latter category. The backstory to Jake Heggie’s new opera, Moby Dick, is almost as compelling as the Melville novel.
Moby Dick — the opera, not the novel — is a co-production between Dallas Opera, State Opera of South Australia, San Diego Opera, San Francisco Opera and Calgary Opera. Dallas gave the world premiere last April to highly laudatory reviews, with particular notice going to tenor Ben Heppner starring in the title role (here’s a LINK to my story on the opening reviews).
However, Heppner was not scheduled to repeat that role in San Diego when the opera appears there next February because he was scheduled to perform the part of Siegfried in Götterdämmerung, the final installment of the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Ring cycle. Instead, American Jay Hunter Morris was engaged to perform the Ahab role. Enter the (in this case, humorous) cancellation merry-go-round.
First, Heppner dropped out of the Ring last February because, as the Met said in a release, the singer "has retired the role from his repertory." Gary Lehman was signed to replace Heppner at the Met, but earlier this month he cancelled from Gotterdamerung on Jan 27, Feb. 7 and 11 due to illness. SD Opera let Morris out of his Moby Dick contract to replace Lehman at the Met. And who will replace Hunter in San Diego’s Moby Dick? Why, Heppner, of course! You can’t make this up, folks.
BTW: the San Diego run of Moby Dick opens Feb. 18 and continues on Feb. 21, 24 and 26 at the San Diego’s Civic Theatre. Info: www.sdopera.com
For the San Diego Union-Tribune story on the cast machinations, click HERE.
(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.