Many theatre-goers say Adelaide has just witnessed one of the most spectacular and revolutionary staged theatrical events of all time – Jake Heggie's mammoth opera – Moby Dick.
When we last caught up with the 'ever performing' Adam Goodburn, he was in Sydney. Then it was straight back to Adelaide for the extravaganza that was Moby Dick.
In his continuing introduction to opera, Adam shares what it was like to be part of history in the making.
"Whosoever of ye raises me a white-headed whale…"
One thing I realised about this production is that we’re on a boat! A rather astute observation on my part and perhaps a trivial thing to most but the reality meant that the cast are on stage the majority of the time. Unlike other productions when you might change locations or certain characters will leave for a period of time, in Moby Dick we can’t really leave, well not very far anyway. So the rehearsal period has required the entire compliment of principal characters (all 10 of us) to be present and there has been little ‘down time’ for anyone. As a result, the cast has developed a stronger bond and there is no room for divas on board this boat!
One thing that amazed us all was the speed at which we blocked the entire opera – 9 days.
The director was quick to remind us that the majority of production calls in the theatre would be technical calls; it was understandable when we moved into the Festival Theatre. A white, wooden floor took up the entire stage depicting the surface of Ahab’s ship, The Pequod. The surface swept up at the back of the stage like a large wave; we would perch ourselves on small handholds whilst projections of long boats would surround us.
The fun part was choreographing the exits off the hand rails (to simulate the capsizing of our boats) without taking out other members of the cast.
We were drilled to military precision, ‘synchronised chaos’ was the aim. We had a combat master train us for stage fighting, not the usual sword fighting or ‘pistols at 10 paces’ sort of thing, this was a knife fight with punches exchanged and bodies being thrown around. A ¼ of the cast had to be fitted with rock climbing harnesses because they would be spending time 12 feet above the stage to simulate sailors changing sails and being whale spotters.
This is modern opera, or some might call it ‘high music theatre’ because the boundaries between the two mediums have certainly been blurred in the last decade.
The highlight of this production for me is the projections; images of crashing waves filling the stage, long boats being destroyed, actually seeing The Pequod from all angles – it was a sight to behold. It is certainly a sign of the times – opera IS evolving!