This Halloween, Jay Hunter Morris reprises his role as Captain Ahab in Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick. It will be the first time he’s performed the opera in Los Angeles, coming fresh from a year of tremendous roles in The Flying Dutchman and Cold Mountain. Here’s our Jay Hunter Morris Edition of Questions.
What’s it like to revisit the role of Ahab for the 4th time?
Thrilling. Ahab is #1 on my wish list every year. The music has been simmering in my mind, and I can’t wait to try again, there are so many options for me as a singer!
Ahab is complex, to say the least. What do you like best about the role?
The madness. Can you imagine the horror of being attacked by such a sea beast, surviving in those days, the agony endured, the festering, acidic anger, the single-minded drive for revenge? AND, I must embody the power, the charm and charisma that he must wield in order to lead grown men willingly to their death. It’s a mighty task, a privilege granted to few, and I am so grateful to step into his cloak once again.
Did you read the book? Did you like it / how long did it take you?
I’ve read it twice. Like everybody else, it took me forever and a day. Many times I had to walk away and return a few months later with some fresh eyes. I believe Gene and Jake have rendered us a most remarkable retelling.
The peg leg looks like it’s gotta be painful. What is it like to perform while wearing it?
When you sign up for Ahab you know there’s a peg leg involved, so I try to check my whining at the door. (But yeah, it’s rough, if I’m not careful it will throw my back and hips into a jagged free for all). And Ahab is a very challenging role to sing standing squarely on two legs, so it really does require me at my best.
What would you say to potential “Moby-Dick” audiences who may be wary of contemporary opera?
Stop it. Free your mind. This is a truly magnificent piece of music and theater. The overture alone is worth the trip. The Ahab/Starbuck Duet in Act 2 is one of my favorite songs, EVER. We need variety, we need inspiration, challenge, we need to stretch, come expecting a fabulous evening and I’m certain you will find one.
Other than “Moby-Dick” at LAO, what are you looking forward to doing/seeing while in Los Angeles?
I love LA. Meg and I lived here for 5 years, Cooper Jack was born here. We’ve got lots of friends to reconnect with, not to mention Porto’s Bakery, Casa Bianca, and Cafe Beaujolais!
What are you listening to on your iPod (or equivalent) these days? What do you like to do when you’re not singing?
I’m listening to Tower of Power and Mingo Fishtrap. Jazzy, Fonky, Bluesy. After a chapter of Big Opera, nothing soothes me like long days at home with my Family. And my drums. My next life, you’ll find me keeping the beat in a smoky, seedy, Jazz Club.
To learn more about Jay Hunter Morris and his journey from Paris, TX to opera stardom, scoop up a copy of his autobiography, Diary of a Redneck Opera Zinger.