Jake Heggie’s Great Scott exceeded what I thought contemporary opera was capable of.
  • Jake Heggie’s Great Scott exceeded what I thought contemporary opera was capable of.
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The three performances that mattered most in 2016: Great Scott at San Diego Opera; Madama Butterfly at San Diego Opera; Holst The Planets at San Diego Symphony.

Jake Heggie has been prolific by modern standards of opera compositions. According to his website he has composed a dozen pieces of music for the stage ranging from operatic scenes to epic sagas such as 2010’s Moby Dick.

The 2016 San Diego Opera production of Heggie’s Great Scott exceeded what I thought contemporary opera was capable of. The show had a magical combination of comedy, veneration of the art form, and a truck load of poignant moments.

Video:

Great Scott's "Si, son io"

...sung by Joyce DiDonato at Tucker Opera Gala 2016

...sung by Joyce DiDonato at Tucker Opera Gala 2016

Preceding Great Scott was Madama Butterfly. When Butterfly is done “right” there is no more moving experience to be had on any stage anywhere. It’s even better than Hamilton, if you can believe it.

Latonia Moore sang the title role and — along with conductor Yves Abel — tore our hearts out and nailed them to the stage of the Civic Theater. I’ll never forget this production if only because of one comment.

As the lights came up and I made a valiant attempt to compose myself and hide any number of emotional juices that were streaming down my face, the ever present “old white guy” sitting next to me had an opinion to express.

I should acknowledge that the “old white guy” is rapidly becoming a boogie man in our culture and justifiably so in some cases. This was one such case.

He explained that while Butterfly was good, his favorite opera was The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He was referencing the Disney musical that was produced by the La Jolla Playhouse.

I managed to mumble something about having known a few people who were in that production all the while wanting to rub his nose in the puddle of uncouth, uncultured urine he had just deposited on Puccini. It’s a goddamn Disney musical, sir. Madama Butterfly is an opera.

As the saying goes, “You can’t do epic shit with basic people.”

The third concert that mattered most in 2016 was the recent performance of The Planets by the San Diego Symphony. That concert is still echoing in my consciousness.

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