Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Day 272- Pittsburgh Opera-Moby Dick-A Powerful Tale, A Powerful American Opera

I have recently added the Pittsburgh Opera to my empty- nest repertoire but I have only experienced one other American Opera (see Day 212 Summer King). Moby-Dick  is an American opera with music by Jake Heggie and lyrics by Gene Scheer.  It is based on the classic novel by Herman Melville. I have to admit that I never  read the book but I know the story of  Captain Ahab’s feverish pursuit of the great white whale that took his leg. It's the story of the whale’s defeat of  man. I was excited to see if the musical strength of the predominately male cast would match the power of this man versus beast story in this Pittsburgh Primer of Moby-Dick.

 I love that the opera is  usually  a “larger than life production” with elaborate sets,  the symphony, and of course, masterful song. This is a perfect art form for  the  tale of the great white whale!

Moby-Dick ingeniously kept the audience at sea on the whaling ship. The realistic curtain of waves moved to the  symphony  prologue that  raced like a movie sound track.  As the  sea adventure ensued, the set magically moved changing the view of the ship and of the back drop which was  the sky or waves.

Moby Dick opened with the all male crew calling "all hands on deck" as the ship’s sails were raised. Captain Ahab soon revealed the real nature of their voyage was to destroy the mighty Moby Dick and to take his revenge on the whale that took off his leg. The excited crew all sang “Death to Moby Dick” and it was accompanied by energetic choreographed dancing.

Although the opera started out with a punch, it kept me at sea a little longer than I would have liked since the show was almost 3 hours long and contained some slower reflective arias. The upside was the powerful tenor and baritone voices  of all the characters from Captain Ahab (Roger Honeywell), Starbuck (Michael Mays), deckhand prince, Queequeg (Musa Mgqungwana) ,and the newcomer to whaling, Greenhorn(Sean Panikkar). The cabin boy, Pip (Jacqueline Echols) was the  only female in the cast and  was a fantastic soprano.  Although this might sound a bit macabre, one of my favorite moments was Pip’s aria as he was lost at sea after his boat  capsized. 
Greenhorn, Queequeg, and Pip- Pip is found after being lost at sea
In the second Act  the power of nature ensued in a storm surrounding the whaling ship.  Thereafter, the audience attention was drawn  to the side seating box of the theater as a wonderful baritone,  Captain Gardiner (Ben Taylor), pleaded for help in searching  for his 12-year old son who was lost in the storm. Ahab, focused only on the whale and refused to help. 

The long awaited “whale action”  gave the ending a boost of excitement and it was  artfully performed both  visually and musically. The audience reacted with a gasp as the  huge whale eye emerged. The battle of man against the beast ended in the demise of the ship and crew. Revenge is costly. Ahab stabs the whale but is dragged under the sea as a curtain resembling ocean waves fell and  the music played.  

The strength of the great whale prevailed over man and Moby-Dick matched this dominance with  powerful vocals in this Pittsburgh Opera premier production. Enjoying the extravagance of the opera  with the Pittsburgh Opera 2018-19 upcoming season is defiantly something to keep in your survial tool box.
Spiritual Source
Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.”
(Proverbs 24:29)
Other Sources

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