MOBY-DICK (2010)

“A TRIUMPH” The Dallas Morning  News


“THE HIT OF THE SEASON” The Washington Post



Moby-Dick (2010) is an opera in two acts with a libretto by Gene Scheer based on the great American novel by Herman Melville. Set in 1820, it tells the story of Ahab, captain of the ill-fated whaleship Pequod, and the crew he commands. Having lost one of his legs to the white whale called Moby Dick, Captain Ahab is obsessed with finding and destroying him at any cost. Only the ship’s first mate, Starbuck, sees the deadly implications of Ahab’s obsession.

  Photo © Karen Almond/Courtesy of The Dallas Opera

Photo Karen Almond/Courtesy of The Dallas Opera
Click image for more photos.

“Heggie has become one of the pre-eminent contemporary opera composers. His Dead Man Walking premiered at the San Francisco Opera in 2000 and is among the most successful operas premiered since the death of Benjamin Britten in 1976. Moby-Dick, based on Melville’s 1851 novel, is another triumph.”
Ronald Blum, Associated Press


“It’s glorious and it’s gripping; it’s grand — and it’s good! Heggie — assisted by his seasoned librettist Gene Scheer — has achieved something with Moby-Dick that American opera has not experienced in a long time: they have created a work of quality that should garner itself an immediate place in the repertory of opera houses around the world.“
Wes Blomster, Opera Today

Moby-Dick was commissioned by the Dallas Opera, San Francisco Opera, Calgary Opera, San Diego Opera and the State Opera of South Australia. It received its highly acclaimed world premiere on April 30, 2010 at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas, TX as part of the inaugural season in that house. Conducted by Patrick Summers and directed by Leonard Foglia, the iconic production featured sets by Robert Brill, projections by Elaine McCarthy, lighting by Donald Holder and costumes by Jane Greenwood. The cast included tenor Ben Heppner (Ahab), baritone Morgan Smith (Starbuck), tenor Stephen Costello (Greenhorn), bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu (Queequeg), soprano Talise Trevigne (Pip), baritone Robert Orth (Stubb), and tenor Matthew O’Neill (Flask).

Moby-Dick at The Dallas Opera, 2010 - Morgan Smith & Ben Heppner

Morgan Smith & Ben Heppner

Photo Karen Almond

The opera Moby-Dick by Jake Heggie, 2010 - Stephen Costello & Jonathan Lemalu

Stephen Costello & Jonathan Lemalu

Photo Karen Almond

The opera has seven principal roles, four smaller roles and men’s chorus. The orchestra includes 3 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, 1 bass trombone, timpani, 3 percussion, harp and strings.

The 2012 production of Moby-Dick at San Francisco Opera was featured on Great Performances’ 40th Season, telecast nationally in 2013 and subsequently released on DVD (EuroArts). That same year, Heggie & Scheer’s Moby-Dick: A Grand Opera for the 21st Century, a book by Robert Wallace, with photos by Karen Almond, about the making of the opera was published by UNT Press.

Moby-Dick received its East Coast premiere in February 2014 at the John F Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington, DC, produced by the Washington National Opera.






Conductor Patrick Summers
Director & Dramaturg Leonard Foglia
Set Design Robert Brill
Lighting Donald Holder
Costumes Jane Greenwood
Projections & Film Elaine McCarthy
Musical Preparation Laurie Rogers, Michael Heaston, Janice Fehlauer
Chorus Conductor Alexander Rom


Ahab Ben Heppner,
Jay Hunter Morris
Greenhorn Stephen Costello
Starbuck Morgan Smith
Queequeg Jonathan Lemalu
Pip Talise Trevigne
Stubb Robert Orth
Flask Matthew O'Neill
Gardiner Jonathan Beyer

The Dallas Opera Orchestra and Men of the Chorus


ORCHESTRATION: 3 flutes (one doubles piccolo), 3 oboes (one doubles English Horn), 3 clarinets (one doubles bass clarinet), 3 bassoons (one doubles contrabassoon), 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in C, 2 trombones, 1 bass trombone, 2 percussion, 1 timpani, harp, strings



A list of companies who have performed or scheduled future performances of the opera follows:


 1. The Dallas Opera (Apr 2010)
 2. State Opera of South Australia (Aug/Sept 2011)
 3. Calgary Opera (Jan 2012)
 4. San Diego Opera (Feb 2012)
 5. San Francisco Opera (Oct 2012)
 6. The Washington National Opera (Feb 2014)



Upcoming and Past Performances Since 2012

Oct 31, Nov 7, 15, 19, 22 & 28

Moby-Dick produced by the Los Angeles Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Starring Jay Hunter Morris (Ahab), Morgan Smith (Starbuck), Joshua Guerrero (Greenhorn), Musa Ngqungwana (Queequeg), Jaqueline Echols (Pip), Malcolm MacKenzie (Stubb), Matthew O’Neill (Flask). Conducted by James Conlon, directed by Leonard Foglia, sets by Robert Brill, costumes by Jane Greenwood, projections by Elaine McCarthy.
More Perf. Info.
LA Opera Type: Moby-Dick  
Feb 22, 25, 28; Mar 2, 5, 8

Moby-Dick in its East Coast premiere at The Washington National Opera in the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Directed by Leonard Foglia, conducted by Evan Rogister; with Carl Tanner (Ahab), Stephen Costello (Greenhorn), Matthew Worth (Starbuck), Eric Green (Queequeg), Talise Trevigne (Pip).
More Perf. Info.
Washington National Opera Type: Moby-Dick  
Nov 1

Great Performances national telecast of Moby-Dick on PBS.The San Francisco Opera production features Jay Hunter Morris (Ahab), Stephen Costello (Greenhorn), Morgan Smith (Starbuck), Talise Trevigne (Pip), Jonathan Lemalu (Queequeg), Robert Orth (Stubb), Matthew O’Neill (Flask); conducted by Patrick Summers and directed by Leonard Foglia.
Type: Moby-Dick  
Oct 10, 13, 18, 21, 23, 26, 30* & 11/2*

Moby-Dick at the San Francisco Opera, featuring the original cast conducted by Patrick Summers and directed by Leonard Foglia. Ben Heppner & Jay Hunter Morris* (Ahab), Morgan Smith (Starbuck), Stephen Costello (Greenhorn), Jonathan Lemalu (Queequeg), Talise Trevigne (Pip), Robert Orth (Stubb), Matthew O’Neill (Flask).
San Francisco Opera Type: Moby-Dick  
Feb 18, 21, 24, 26

West Coast Premiere of Moby-Dick at San Diego Opera; Ben Heppner (Ahab), Morgan Smith (Starbuck), Jonathan Boyd (Greenhorn), Jonathan Lemalu (Queequeg), Talise Trevigne (Pip), Robert Orth (Stubb), Matthew O’Neill (Flask); Leonard Foglia, director; Joseph Mechavich, conductor
San Diego Opera Type: Moby-Dick  
Jan 28 - Feb 3

Canadian premiere of Moby-Dick at Calgary Opera with Ben Heppner (Ahab), Brett Polegato (Starbuck), Colin Ainsworth (Greenhorn), Justin Welsh (Queequeg), Lisa DiMaria (Pip), Peter McGillivray (Stubb), Robert Clark (Flask); Joseph Mechavich, conductor; Leonard Foglia, director.
Calgary Opera Type: Moby-Dick  


RSS | iCal



1. A DVD of the 2012 San Francisco production of Moby-Dick is available from San Francisco Opera and Great Performances.




2. Robert K. Wallace has written Heggie and Scheer’s Moby-Dick: A Grand Opera for the Twenty-first Century so readers can experience the process by which Moby-Dick, the opera, was created and performed on stage.



ASSOCIATED PRESS, Ronald Blum (May 2010)

Composer Jake Heggie achieved his goal Friday night with an achingly beautiful, magnificently sung and gorgeously staged world premiere of his Moby-Dick, the highlight of the Dallas Opera's first season at the sparkling new Winspear Opera House. The audience responded with an eight-minute standing ovation.

Just 49, Heggie has become one of the pre-eminent contemporary opera composers. His Dead Man Walking premiered at the San Francisco Opera in 2000 and is among the most successful operas premiered since the death of Benjamin Britten in 1976. Moby-Dick, based on Melville's 1851 novel, is another triumph.

Heggie is a rarity, an accessible composer whose melodic lines and sense of drama are aimed at audiences rather than academics. With librettist Gene Scheer, he has transformed Melville's sprawling novel into an active stage work.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, Scott Cantrell (May 2010)

Moby-Dick, the opera, is a triumph. Stunningly staged and sung, it captures the elemental forces of the sea and Captain Ahab's obsession with the great white whale that has maimed him. Scheer seamlessly tunes his own prose and poetry to Melville's. Heggie composes vocal lines that make sense vocally and illumine words and emotions.

THE NEW YORK TIMES, Steve Smith (May 2010)

…Mr. Heggie's opera was an undeniable success: The end of its maiden voyage was greeted with a sustained, rousing ovation, with shredded programs fluttering down from the highest seating level. The strongest response

was reserved for Mr. Heggie and Mr. Scheer, received at the end with a triumphal roar.

OPERA NOW, Chris Shull (May 6, 2010)

Melville's Moby-Dick has been called the Great American Novel. Jake Heggie's telling of the story is certainly a great American opera…

…a vibrant cast, headlined by Canadian star-tenor Ben Heppner, an atmospheric set enhanced by vido projections, and Heggie's sumptuous, noble score combined on May 5 for an exhilarating evening of music and theatre…

THE TORONTO STAR, William Littler (May 2010)

…probably one of the most successful new operas to reach the stage in the past quarter century.

THE WASHINGTON POST, Anne Midgette (May 2010)

Moby-Dick turned out to be one of the most satisfying new operas I've seen premiered… the opening-night crowd in Dallas broke into

spontaneous applause three times during the first half, and screamed and yelled its approval at the curtain calls. It was a wonderful and rare reminder that new opera truly can excite people if it's done right.


The score is studded with vivid scenes in many modes. But the distinction of Moby-Dick lies less in its parts than in the whole. Though the action is episodic, the libretto holds a taut arc. The score holds together, too, shaped by the gravitational pull of the ties, ever-changing in the music yet ever-present. Ribbons of silken melody, played by solo winds and reeds, ripple high above, like wayward breezes. Pizzicati conjure up pinpricks of starlight on the waves. Under the baton of Patrick Summers, the score unfolded majestically, never rushed yet never meandering, the dramatic incidents clearly set off within the greater flow.


[Heggie & Scheer's] powerful and emotionally irresistible new work, which opened over the weekend at the Dallas Opera, doesn't shy away from the challenges presented by Melville's landmark novel. Instead, it deftly sidesteps them, drawing from the source only those things needed for the drama and using Heggie's lush, expressive music to carry the show. The result is a vibrant, compelling piece of musical theater…easily Heggie's finest creation since Dead Man Walking first put him on the map a decade ago.

Heggie's great achievement in Moby-Dick is to write melodies that are memorable without being predictable, using harmonies that are clear but flavorful. The formal dramaturgy, too, is sleek and uncluttered, unfolding in a series of crisply rounded arias, choruses and especially duets.

D MAGAZINE, Wayne Lee Gay (May 2010)

Along with a new opera, a new chapter in opera history may have opened Friday night at the Winspear Opera House.

THE WASHINGTON POST, Anne Midgette (June 27, 2010)

When it opened on April 30, Moby-Dick turned out to be the hitof the season. The audience screamed approval, and performances promptly sold out…
Moby-Dick is about as popular as a new opera can get. Not only was it a box-office success, but before it even opened, Heggie's name also had attracted four co-producers…Therefore, this successful production will be seen again…

OPERA TODAY, Wes Blomster (May 2010)

It's glorious and it's gripping; it's grand — and it's good! Heggie — assisted by his seasoned librettist Gene Scheer — has achieved something with Moby-Dick that American opera has not experienced in a long time: they have created a work of quality that should garner itself an immediate place in the repertory of opera houses around the world.

Director Leonard Foglia worked with the hand of a sorcerer to blend projection designs by Elaine McCarthy into an overpowering and effective whole with designs by Robert Brill and lighting by Donald Holder. Never did these visual aspects threaten the primacy of Heggie's score, in which there is not one superfluous note.

Patrick Summers, Heggie's perennial collaborator, evoked magnificent playing from The Dallas Opera Orchestra in giving birth to what is obviously a modern masterpiece of music theater.

OPERA WARHORSES, William Burnett (May 2010)

Not only do I suspect that Moby-Dick will propel Heggie to the first rank of the extraordinary current crop of contemporary American opera composers, I believe that it quite possibly…will become the most popular opera written so far during our young century.

FORT WORTH RENAISSANCE, Dean Cassella (May 2010)

…reveals a composer whose depth and sophistication is growing with time, and the music world is the better for it.

CITY WALK TALK, John P. Greenan (May 2010)

Earlier this month I saw the future of opera. It is Moby-Dick at Dallas' Winspear Opera House.

WFAA-TV, Gary Cogill (May 2010)

…a massive artistic accomplishment.

THE AUSTRALIAN, Graham Strahle (Aug 29, 2011)

[Moby-Dick] is a large, epically proportioned work … the music is flawlessly beautiful, like a jewel. It is intensely lyrical, powerfully moody and superbly well paced. There are no disjunctures of style or breaks in dramatic flow; instead, Heggie has created a giant symphonic poem through which he threads the voices majestically and gloriously.

INDAILY, Greg Elliott (Aug 29, 2011)

Moby-Dick is a triumph! … a total and memorable experience. What an exciting city and time we live in that gives rise to an international collaboration that produces a modern masterpiece such as Moby-Dick.

THE ADVERTISER, Ewart Shaw (Aug 29, 2011)

… an astounding journey. The Great American Novel has become a grand new opera.

GLAM ADELAIDE, Barry Lenny (Aug 29, 2011)

The seamless combination of projections, the physical set and live action is astounding, seeming to blend opera with theatre, circus, cinema and visual art into a multimedia extravaganza. It has to be seen to be believed.



Bill Holab Music is agent for the sales and rentals of the score to Moby-Dick.

Published by Bent Pen Music, Inc. (BMI)

For information on Grand Rights: Don Erik Franzen, Inc.


One or more recordings have been made. (Here is a Search for them.)   Sheet Music, Scores, Parts and Performance Materials are available from   Rental Sheet Music, Scores, Parts and Performance Materials are available from

Score Purchase BHMScore Rental from BHM