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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 13, No. 5 February 2008

Noted World Premieres of Operas

by Joseph So / February 12, 2008

Following the successes of his operas Dead Man Walking (2000) and The End of the Affair (2004), American composer Jake Heggie is working on another ambitious project, an operatic adaptation of Herman Melville’s novel, Moby Dick. It stars Canadian tenor Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab. The conductor will be Houston Grand Opera music director Patrick Summers. The librettist is Gene Scheer, and its premiere is slated for April 2010 at the 2200-seat Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, the soon-to-be new home of the Dallas Opera. Heggie attributes the idea of adapting the Melville novel to playwright and Dead Man Walking librettist Terrance McNally. He claims he has re-read the novel ten times since he decided to set it to music. No details of the staging are available at this time. This is a co-production with San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera and Calgary Opera, which has become the Canadian leader in presenting Canadian and World premieres of new opera. Dead Man Walking had its Canadian premiere there in 2006, and the company gave the Canadian debut of The Ballad of Baby Doe just last month.

On a more modest scale, Tapestry New Opera Works of Toronto is putting on Opera to Go 2008, showcasing seven world premieres of six 15-minute chamber operas and a Bravo!FACT film by composer-writer teams who have graduated from Tapestry’s Composer-Librettist Laboratory, an annual opera “boot camp” that brings together artists of various disciplines to collaborate on new opera creations. The program features She sees her lover in the light of morning by Leanna Brodie and Craig Galbraith, in which a cautious Ph.D. succumbs to unfettered romance. Brodie also partners with David Ogborn on The Translator, a disturbing story about a woman who, having witnessed atrocity, embeds herself with a nation’s turmoil. Peace of my Heart is a black comedy by Dave Carley and David Ogborn, while See Saw, by Anna Chatterton and Andrew Staniland, is all about the end of a relationship. A queen pursues an unlikely mate in The Colony, a quirky comedy by Lisa Codrington & Kevin Morse, and in The Shaman’s Tale, Krista Dalby and Kevin Morse take us on a mythic journey which ends in the ultimate sacrifice. The program also includes the screening of The Perfect Match, a film by Krista Dalby and Anthony Young about a chance encounter that transforms tow lives forever.

Opera to Go 2008 features soprano Carla Huhtanen, mezzo Jessica Lloyd, tenor Keith Klassen, and baritone Calvin Powell, accompanied by a chamber orchestra under the baton of music director Wayne Strongman. Performances will be sung in English with English surtitles. The show previews on February 14, and runs from Feb. 15 – 23, at 8 pm, except the Feb. 17 matinee at 2 pm. Harbourfront Centre Box Office: 416-973-4000 or at www.harbourfrontcentre.com

Finally, a role premiere of note is the first-ever Siegfried of tenor Ben Heppner, in Wagner’s Siegfried, slated to take place at the Festival International d’Arts Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence this summer. The dates are June 28, July 1, 4, 7. Tickets go on sale on January 23, 2008 – see http://www.festival-aix.com. This is part of a continuing new Ring Cycle at Aix. Heppner is slated to sing the Siegfried in Götterdammerung there next summer, and rumour has it that he will reprise the role in the new Robert Lepage Ring at the Metropolitan Opera starting 2012. n

(c) La Scena Musicale