Come Chase the White Whale With The Utah Opera This Winter

The Utah Opera marks its ruby anniversary with a special operatic presentation of the Herman Melville classic.

By Tamerin Smith December 15, 2017 Published in the Winter/Spring 2018 issue of Park City Magazine

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A rendering of the Utah Opera’s presentation of Moby-Dick.

Image: Utah Opera

The Salt Lake City–based Utah Opera has had all hands on deck for this, its 40th anniversary season, under way now through May 2018. While the celebration so far has included a 40-day ode to opera highlighted by a performance by opera superstar Renée Fleming, for our money, the best is yet to come. Case in point: in January, the Utah Opera presents a completely reimagined production of this century’s most popular opera, Moby-Dick.

Originally staged in Dallas, Los Angeles, and abroad, Herman Melville’s sweeping tale of a man driven to destruction by his singular desire for revenge has been described as “visually and musically stunning.” Recalling the 2010 debut in Dallas, Utah Opera CEO Paul Meecham says, “I don’t remember taking a single breath. Ahab’s increasing paranoia and obsessive drive perfectly translates into opera.”

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Moby-Dick set building at the Utah Opera’s Salt Lake City production studios in October 2017.

Image: Utah Opera

The sheer size of the original production limited Moby-Dick’s ability to travel to other stages. Utah Opera Artistic Director Christopher McBeth wanted to change that. “When Moby-Dick was created by opera’s leading composer and librettist team, a new classic was born,” McBeth says. “But now is the time for a new production, one that retains the power of the original but with a set that can travel to midsize stages around the world.” Staff at the Utah Opera’s renowned production studios worked through most of 2017 to build sets and sew costumes for Moby-Dick’s Utah premiere in January. After the show concludes at Salt Lake’s Capitol Theatre on January 28, both the set and costumes will head out on the road as a Utah Opera co-production to regional operas across the country, including the Pittsburgh Opera, Opera San José, and Chicago Opera Theater.

Stage Director Kristine McIntyre says those attending Moby-Dick will be immersed in “the confines of a 19th-century whaling ship and the unending vastness of the sea and the sky” from the moment the curtain rises. “The boat becomes the crew’s entire world,” she says. “And the story is really about the disintegration of society as this passion for revenge consumes the crew, ultimately to their own destruction.” 

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Moby-Dick set building at the Utah Opera’s Salt Lake City production studios in October 2017.

Image: Utah Opera

If you’ve never experienced opera before, Moby-Dick might be the place to start. Join the “Libretti & Libations” crowd by picking up an Instagram-ready, opera-themed cocktail from a local restaurant (#UtahOperaSips); being photographed walking the red carpet; and immersing yourself in the magical world of opera. You just may find yourself hooked.

The Utah Opera’s production of Moby-Dick runs January 20–28, 2018. For details, tickets, and more about 40th anniversary season events and celebrations, call 801.736.4605 or visit the Utah Opera website

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