STORY AND LINKS: Harpooning the lead role in San Diego Opera’s “Moby Dick”

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily


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 engaged
to perform the role of Siegfried in Gtterdmmerung,
the final installment of the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of
Wagner’s Ring cycle. Instead,
American Jay Hunter Morris was going to portray Ahab. 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:


For the San Diego
story on the cast machinations, click HERE.



(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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