Tag Archives: Moby-Dick

Wear A Costume, Get An Upgrade

When you think opera, you don’t usually think swashbuckling, brawls or adventure. But then there’s Moby-Dick and it’s filled with all that and more.

If you’re keeping track, you know that Moby-Dick opens on October 31. Of course, we couldn’t ask you to come to the opera on Halloween without inviting you to come in costume.

So this is your formal invitation to join us on opening night – all Hallows’ Eve.
If you dress like a sailor or pirate or a whale we’ll upgrade you to a better seat if they’re available.

The better the costume, the better the seat.

What can you expect in the opera version of Moby-Dick? Jake Heggie, the acclaimed composer, has distilled the huge story so that the audiences of all ages get to know the famous Captain Ahab, his crew and his obsession with the mythical whale. With deck-top action, ocean intrigue, uncanny staging and the presence of the beastly Moby-Dick, this show leaves you wide-eyed and rethinking your definition of opera.


So dig in your closet, hit the Halloween store and pull together your opening night Moby-Dick outfit.

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Ship Anatomy: Moby-Dick Edition

Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Shipbuilding is an ancient profession that predates the period of recorded time. It’s an old art form that created vessels allowing the earliest humans to conquer rivers and oceans, in search of both food and adventure. Upon these ships, sailors created their own microcosm of reality upon the high seas.

Recreating a ship on stage can take many forms. A ship can be represented by actors physically moving their bodies to form a boat on stage, or it can be a giant prop that the story’s action revolves around. An image of a ship can even be projected on a scrim on stage to represent what’s not physically on stage. In Robert Brill’s grand set design for Moby-Dick, the ship consumes the entire stage. The Pequod, as the whaling ship is called, can be seen from various sides depending on the act and there are multiple parts to make this ship seem very real to singers and audience members alike.

“After much prolonged sauntering and many random inquiries, I learnt that there were three ships up for three-years’ voyages – The Devil-Dam, the Tit-bit, and the Pequod. Devil-Dam, I do not know the origin of; Tit-bit is obvious; Pequod, you will no doubt remember, was the name of a celebrated tribe of Massachusetts Indians, now extinct as the ancient. I peered and pryed about the Devil-Dam; from her, hopped over to the Tit-bit; and, finally, going on board the Pequod, looked around her for a moment, and then decided that this was the very ship for us.” – Ishmael in Melville’s Moby-Dick

Before a single note is sung, the audience is treated to a sophisticated projection of The Pequod, projected onto a blackout curtain on a starry night. This visual treatment represents the masterful design to come. It is only in the second scene of the opera that the first full set can be seen. A center mast sits in the middle of the stage, attached to a diagonal yard arm and a round centerpiece called a “Crow’s Nest.” Both in front of and behind the mast, there are three sails made of scrim—transparent, white fabric upon which images are projected. Below you can also see trusses, ropes, and working pulleys that all add to the realism of the set design. Principal singers, chorus members, and supernumerary climbers are not just miming working on a ship; they are physically involved in the running of The Pequod, which is one of the reasons Brill’s set is so effective.

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10 Great Starter Operas

There are thousands of great operas to experience, but figuring out where to begin can be a little intimidating. However, opera newbies might be surprised to learn that they’re more familiar with opera than they think. Ever seen an episode of Looney Tunes or Tom and Jerry? Many television shows, Broadway productions and even films are based on or inspired by some of the most popular operas to ever hit the stage.

Here’s a list of ten operas that would be great for any opera newbie to check out, most of which can be seen at LA Opera this season.

Moby-Dick – It’s a classic read and will be a classic opera performance for any newbie to watch. Sung in English, Moby-Dick is easier to follow musically and newbies will also be wowed by set designer Robert Brill’s creations, which bring the high seas to life on stage. Read more about a unique stage prop called a cyc, and the Moby-Dick ship set here.

La Boheme – For the Broadway junkies out there, this is the opera that sparked the musical Rent. It also served as the inspiration for Moulin Rouge (along with La Traviata) making the plot familiar and easy to follow for first-timers.

Aida – The elaborate costumes and set design give any opera newbie enough incentive to watch this beautiful opera. The story takes place in Egypt and focuses around the enslaved Ethiopian princess, Aida. The large pyramid sets and Egyptian attire, much like Pagliacci, show how much planning and work goes into making one of these shows come to life.

Ana María Martínez as Cio-Cio-San in Santa Fe Opera's Madama Butterfly

Ana María Martínez as Cio-Cio-San in Santa Fe Opera’s Madama Butterfly

Madame ButterflyMadame Butterfly is a romantic tragedy with an easy to follow story line and gorgeous music. The set is simple, beautiful and elegant and is sure to impress anyone who sees.

The Barber of Seville – Opera fan or not, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of The Barber of Seville. With famous tunes (check out this overture) and a few good laughs, it’s sure to be a lively performance and a great show for opera newbies.

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10.21 Word Wednesday - WandelprobeWANDELPROBE (19 Scrabble Points) – German – Like a sitzprobe, this means the orchestra and singers are rehearsing together for the first time with one small difference. Instead of just singing, there is some staging/blocking involved. Picture Captain Ahab singing along to the orchestra’s music and walking the stage in peg-leg, because Moby-Dick’s wandelprobe is coming up this Saturday!

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Setting Sail at LA Opera

The cast of San Francisco Opera's Moby-Dick (2013)

The cast of San Francisco Opera’s Moby-Dick (2013)

Props can vary in size, shape, color and just about any other fashion imaginable. Some even float (well, kind of). Boats can play a large role in opera, adding an aquatic element to the production, captivating the audience’s attention and taking them on the cruise of a lifetime.

Throughout the years, LA Opera has used many forms and types of boats as props to make each show come to life on the stage. Past productions using boats in the set include II Tabarro (2008), II Postino (2010), The Flying Dutchman (2013), Billy Budd (2014), Jonah and the Whale (2014), Florencia en el Amazonas (2015), Hercules vs Vampires (2015) and, of course, Moby Dick (2015). Some of these productions used actual boats salvaged from retired fishermen, others used rented prop boats, and some even used boat silhouettes projected onto the stage.

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The winds have shifted! The tide has changed! With the pending arrival of Moby-Dick, we’re on to sea words for #WordWednesday.

PEQUOD (18 Scrabble Points) – The Pequod is the fictitious whaling ship that Captain Ahab and his crew call home, as they sail the seas in search of the elusive white whale, Moby-Dick.

Moby Dick sails to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on October 31st, and the Pequod will be a stunning set to see, consuming the stage with ropes, masts and breathtaking visuals.

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Captain’s Log: Reporting For Duty

Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Jay Hunter Morris first appeared in Los Angeles in 1994 at the Mark Taper Forum in Terrence McNally’s Master Class, with Zoe Caldwell portraying Maria Callas. There, as the character Anthony Candolini, he sang the aria from Tosca, “Recondita armonia”. He first sang it (as scripted) somewhat affectedly (and was marked down), but then repeated it with such purity of feeling that his mentor, overcome with emotion, admitted, “I have never really listened to it before.” An enduring memory of Morris’ is that of him, with Ms. Caldwell on his arm, regularly patronizing (what was then) Otto’s Restaurant after performances and schmoozing with the likes of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.

Moving ahead to 2005, Mr. Morris, in the role of Mario Cavaradossi, sang not only that aria, but the entire opera for LAO’s student matinee performances of Tosca, also covering that role for the regular performances. Interestingly enough, Morris had never sung the complete opera until he returned here for that revival of this LAO favorite.

For the 2005 stagings, Jay Hunter, mindful of the operatic lore associated with various on-stage anomalous happenings during performances of Tosca (the springy trampoline, the suicidal firing squad, etc.), took whatever precautions he could think of to assure that nothing untoward would happen to him. In Tosca the firing squad is typically composed of six to eight supers. In LAO’s production, some of the firing squad fire loud blanks; the rest fire wads of material that go, “Poof!” Jay Hunter recognized that, given the close quarters separating Cavaradossi from the Firing Squad and observing the high exit velocity of the Poofing material, reasoned that, if the Poofing material hit him below the waist, there was a finite possibility of an accidental impact transmogrifying him (at least on a temporary basis) from voice type tenor to that of countertenor. So, during rehearsals, Jay Hunter gave firm instructions to his Firing Squad, “Aim high, fellas!”


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Moby-Dick Overture: Music Monday

Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

In just a few short weeks, Moby-Dick opens at LA Opera. Melville’s tale of obsession, the nature of good and evil, and the search for the elusive, titular, white whale is set to an evocative score by famed American composer, Jake Heggie (Dead Man Walking). When Heggie describes tackling the mammoth tale, he speaks of finally finding the music of Moby’s universe in four simple chords. These chords capture the spirit and yearning inherent in Melville’s story and resurface throughout the rest of the score, in a haunting fashion.

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whale-tail-sticker_v2In honor of our upcoming production, Moby-Dick, we’re launching our Whale About Town Contest. We’ve placed stickers (pictured above) in a few of Los Angeles’ trendiest places (locations listed below). If you spot the whale sticker, take selfie and get social with it. If you include #WhaleAboutTown in your post, you could win a whale of a prize:

Moby-Dick Experience Package

Two Tickets for Moby-Dick’s Opening Night on October 31

Two Intermission Champagne Vouchers


Entry into Downtown LA’s Hottest Halloween Party

The Black & White Ball

   Hosted by The Black Tux at The Theatre at Ace Hotel


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Moby-Dick: No Book Report Required

A timeless classic, Moby Dick sits atop just about every literary reading list. You’ve heard of it, you’ve probably read it and if you have a high school freshman, like I do, it’s on their reading list right now.

And as said freshman pointed out, the book is big – really big.

On October 31, Moby Dickthe opera – opens at LA Opera.While reading the novel can seem daunting due to the sheer volume of details, the opera brings the story to life. We’d never recommend you see the opera instead of reading the novel – it’s not a substitute or the Cliffs notes version or anything – but, the opera provides you with a rich and vibrant telling that’s pretty close to the big book. (It really is the perfect way to get the would-be reader excited about the classic tale.)


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Opera at the Beach: Bringing Music to the Masses

Santa Monica Pier is one of Los Angeles’ largest tourist attractions. Groups of people flock west to experience the beach, ride the ferris wheel, and pose in front of the sign signaling the end of Route 66. This past Saturday, tourists and Angelenos alike came to Santa Monica for one reason: opera.

LA Opera at the Pier Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew ImagingLA Opera hosted its second annual, live HD simulcast called Opera at the Beach on Saturday. This year, an estimated 4,000 people were treated to performances of Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. People arrived early to claim their spot in front of the large screen, participate in opera trivia, and listen to music from LA Opera’s upcoming season, including Beth Morrison Projects’ Song from the Uproar and Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick. Guests who purchased tickets to the Wine Terrace, sponsored by Los Angeles magazine enjoyed tasting various wines and meeting the wineries responsible for creating some of the best drinks southern California has to offer.

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7 Questions with Jay Hunter Morris


Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab in San Francisco Opera’s 2013 production of Moby-Dick

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.

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My Love of Opera Gene

Steve Kohn at LA Opera

My maternal grandfather Hugo immigrated to New York from Czechoslovakia for the American Dream. He became a citizen and worked extraordinarily hard as a doorman to support his wife and two children. Hugo also loved opera. Passionately.

Although he barely earned enough for his family, he would save some pennies for days, weeks, or even months, so he would eventually have enough money to buy one standing room ticket at the Metropolitan Opera (in its old location on 39th Street and Broadway) and enjoy his favorite art form. He dreamed of one day being able to share his love of opera with our entire family.

My grandfather passed away when I was one. I could never speak to him about his love of opera, but my grandmother and mother would tell me countless stories. They insisted that I had acquired my “love of opera gene” from him.

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These Are A Few Of Our Fav Moby Things

As October approaches, we are gearing up for Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick. But we can’t help hearing the joyous music coming from The Ahmanson Theatre across the street, currently presenting Center Theatre Group’s The Sound of Music. It got us thinking – what would happen if Maria’s “My Favorite Things” met Moby-Dick?

San Francisco Opera, Moby Dick,

Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab in San Francisco Opera’s 2013 production of Moby-Dick

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Come One, Come All To The Opera: Newcomers Welcome

Costume and Wig Demonstration at Newcomer Kick-Off

Costume and Wig Demonstration at Newcomer Kick-Off

Last night, LA Opera opened its doors to hundreds of people excited to learn about opera and see what all the brilliant fuss is about. This Newcomer Event allowed guests a sneak-peak into the world of opera, including a costume and wig exhibit, props demonstration, photo booth, and a tour of the Founders Circle (with a view of the Pagliacci set on stage). After mingling with LA Opera staff and discovering more about our upcoming productions, guests were treated to performances from three of our young artists: Kihun Yoon (currently singing the role of the Notary in Gianni Schicchi), Brenton Ryan (currently singing Beppe in Pagliacci) and Summer Hassan (who’ll appear as the Second Lady in this season’s The Magic Flute).

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Costume Shop of Wonders

“What a costume designer does is a cross between magic and camouflage.”
 –Edith Head

Today, LA Opera’s two-story costume shop in Downtown LA is filled with racks of costumes for the upcoming season. There are rows of colorful pieces for Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci right next to Grecian-inspired items for Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma and 19th-century sailors’ clothing for Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick. It’s a striking clash of styles and time periods. I’m at first overwhelmed by the sheer volume of costumes for these productions and how they do not even begin to encompass the company’s extensive inventory.  Yet, as a first time visitor, it’s also thrilling to be surrounded by creations that are a crucial part of creating the operatic characters seen on stage.

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