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Microscopic Terror Haunts Captain and Crew of New San Diego Opera Production

Opera Physician: "I see in this bug outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the virus agent, or be the virus principal, I will wreak that hate upon him."

BACKSTAGE AT THE OPERA, RAGING AT THE HEAVENS - First, the tiny beast claimed the conductor, Karen Keltner, just days before the premiere of San Diego Opera's production of Moby-Dick. The blow was not mortal, but still crippling.

"Losing a conductor is like losing a limb," said Opera Managing Director Iam Cromwell. "When Karen took sick, we were hobbled. But if anything, the blow only engendered in us a fierce, almost obsessive determination not to yield to this brute, elusive force of nature. Instead, we would attack it."

The Opera brought in replacement conductor Joseph Mechavich and pressed on. "Mechavich's mechanics were a little stiff at first - sort of like walking with a wooden leg - but we soon got used to each other," recalls Cromwell. "And I liked his fighting spirit.

"On his first day, he pinned five $100 bills to his music stand and promised to spend it on Champagne for the cast and crew if we could make it through the premiere in good health."

But alas - all too often, it is folly to challenge the monstrous force of nature as it lurks in the mysterious depths of the human body. During the opening performance, lead tenor Ben Heppner began showing the symptoms that would eventually cause him to withdraw from the remaining performances of the opera.

Now, Jay Hunter Morris has been called in to take up the cause, and despite the manifest danger of such a hubristic pursuit, he has vowed to hunt down and root out any germ that seeks to gain a foothold in his system:

"Aye, aye! and I'll chase him round my sinus, and round my guts, and round the bronchial passage, and round digestion's flames before I give him up. And this is what ye have sung for, men! to chase that black germ on both sides of muscle, and over all sides of tissue, till he's wrapped in white corpuscle and rolls his proteins out."

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