On Friday, the Dallas Opera presents the world premiere of composer Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick. The idea came from playwright Terrence McNally, Heggie’s collaborator on Dead Man Walking in 2000. When McNally first suggested creating an opera from Melville’s audaciously sweeping whaling tome, Heggie has said, “my answer was a big yes and a gasp of amazement, all at the same time.”
Because McNally was ill with lung cancer, the job of writing the libretto for Moby-Dick eventually fell to Gene Scheer. Though Scheer used Melville’s language whenever possible, he did help make at least one fairly radical change: the narrator is called not “Ishmael” but “Greenhorn.” [Sic!!!]
But some things are sacrosanct: there’s still a mad Pip (though he’s played by a girl, soprano Talise Trevigne), and there’s still a stalwart Starbuck.
Margaret Guroff is editor and publisher of Power Moby-Dick.