Past Articles by This Author:
BWW Reviews: SF Opera's SECRET GARDEN Could Use Some More Work
Storytelling at its best, San Francisco Opera's co-production of new opera "Moby Dick" overwhelms upon sight and hearing. The magnificent production has some of the most exquisite music ever written for the stage. Jack Heggie's grand cinematic score moves faultlessly from solemn, contemplative moments to lightning and thunder during a storm, making up for minor scenic limitations and becoming the narrator of the piece.
"Call me Ishmael," the famous opening line spoken by the narrator in Herman Melville's classic book - which librettist Gene Scheer has based the opera on - still finds its place in the opera, but it makes its entrance in an unexpected moment thanks to a brilliant and clever idea from the opera's creators.
The dramatic retelling of "Moby Dick" stays mostly true to the novel, following Captain Ahab on his obsessed search for revenge against the white whale, Moby Dick, that took his leg and forced him to walk on a wooden peg. But while the overall story revolves around Ahab, Heggie's music reaches its greatest peaks when conveying the conflicts of other characters found on the whaling ship Pequod. Ahab does not command the audience quite so well as he commands his own ship. Jay Hunter Morris has a fabulous voice and strongly connects with the audience in a telling second act aria, but he lacks the gripping presence of a crazed man. Maybe the blame for the character's weakness lies with its creators' choice to make the character a tenor, a vocal part that does not always best express Ahab's tottering personality.
Or perhaps the more compelling characters that surround Ahab make Morris appear less powerful. Tempted to take Ahab's life to save the rest of the crew, first mate Starbuck desperately tries to turn his captain's course. Morgan Smith brings a tender and fragile strength of mind, character and body to the role. Stephen Costello engages audiences as they follow the character arc of Greenhorn, a sailor new to whaling who develops a deep friendship with the "pagan" Queequeg after he compares the man's gentle kindness to the hypocritical personalities surrounding him. Jonathan Lemalu is a solid presence throughout the opera, a mentor to Greenhorn worth admiring. His prayers open the opera and play a moving part in the opera's final moments.
A theater lover since childhood, Harmony Wheeler has done Marketing and Public Relations work for Sierra Repertory Theatre, Hillhouse Opera Company and other companies. She graduated with high honors from Biola University with her degree in Journalism and an emphasis in Public Relations. In addition to working for the Gallo Center for the Arts, MJM Entertainment Group, Biola University Marketing and Communications, 6th Street PR, and Zimbabwe Gecko Society, Wheeler has written for The Modesto Bee, The Chimes, Static MultiMedia, BullyPulpit.com, TUFW Alumnus Magazine, Christian Book Previews, The Christian Communicator, and Church Libraries Magazine. Her photos appear in The Dominican Dream, a book available for purchase through Biola University's Journalism Department. Her photography and video work can be found at http://photographybyharmonywheeler.shutterfly.com/. To learn more about Harmony Wheeler, or to contact her for work possibilities, visit www.harmonywheeler.com.|