Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Upcoming in Dallas, Oh, and Also in San Francisco

Dallas Opera is moving into a new home at the beginning of the 2009-10 season, so, they're announcing that season a little ahead of time, simultaneously with the 2008-09 season. The big event will be a new opera by Jake Heggie, Moby-Dick. And it's a co-commission with San Francisco, San Diego, and Calgary. In the press release there's a quotation from David Gockley:
I am thrilled that San Francisco Opera can be a part of Jake’s new opera. The work Jake and I have done together has been some of the most meaningful of my professional life – his ability to write for the human voice is exemplary and his music has an infectious lyricism with huge international appeal.

This will be a major new work by a major American talent, and we are proud to be working with Dallas on this commission.
I'm sorry to say, I thought Jake Heggie's last opera for San Francisco, Dead Man Walking, was weak. I remember Flicka's great scene as the mother of the condemned man, and I remember the unaccompanied spiritual Susan Graham sang, and that's about it as far as the music goes.

And I cannot imagine an effective libretto being devised from Moby-Dick. It is the Great American Novel, as far as I am concerned, and it is sui generis in form. Much that is great about the book is in the language and the treatise on whaling, neither of which will translate well to the operatic stage. Not to mention, a tenor as Ahab??

It's not a secret that Stewart Wallace's opera based on Amy Tan's novel The Bonesetter's Daughter will be in a near-future San Francisco Opera season. Wallace's previous, Harvey Milk, was decent theater and musically unmemorable. If David Gockley is freely handing out commissions, he can do better than giving them to Wallace and Heggie.

Thanks to Maury for the Dallas Opera press release link, which has allowed me to scoop everybody around here on this item.


Henry Holland said...

My friends and I called it Dead Opera Walking. :-) A horrible piece, I'd say, only made viable by the story itself and the performances. When he couldn't even write music for the execution scene but just let the heart monitor beep on, well, that was pathetic.

Shorter David Gockley: I'd rather give up a precious production slot to a mediocre American opera rather than to a proven, worthy European one.

Unless Dallas does a Schreker opera --fat chance!-- I'll never go there after they cancelled Marc Anthony Turnage's The Silver Tassie because it would upset their patrons as it's *gasp* anti-war.

Thanks for the info, Lisa!

Anonymous said...

Gockley has been loyal with his commissions: In addition to bringing Appomattox with him from Houston to San Francisco, he commissioned a Heggie opera for Houston -- the not-well received The End of the Affair. I don't know whether he had anything to do with Last Acts, the new Heggie chamber opera HGO will be doing in February and March, but it seems safe to assume so, since it's a co-commission with San Francisco Opera and Cal Performances.

And Gockley tapped Wallace very early on for Where's Dick?, a bizarre comic-strip musical-theater piece directed by Richard Foreman for HGO, which featured Angelina Reaux as Baby Snowflake, a flesh-eating albino gorilla...

And perhaps I shouldn't admit it here, but I quite like Dead Man Walking.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Belated thanks for all of your comments. Steve, what did you like about DMW?

Gockley commissioned Little Women and it seems there is another Adamo opera coming to SFO in the future, based on some items I found on the internet and an email exchange with Adamo himself in August, 2006. That's fine with me; his Lysistrata is a terrific piece with great music.