That was an experience… Moby Dick in English with Polish supertitles, by a powerful composer from Katowice, disciple of Gorecki and neighbor of Kilar (scores: Coppola’s Dracula, Polanski’s The Pianist). I went to see it mostly because the concert recording of his earlier work, The Minds of Helena Troubleyn is one of my favorite obscure music pieces ever. Moby Dick sounded appropriately weird from the description – no plot, sketchy characters, no operatic conventions, just basically whatever a free mind of the composer decides to do. The climax comes at the beginning, the end peters out (should we clap?), there is very little of Achab and no Moby. A piece like no other, for sure!
The event was grand, the audience enthusiastic, with lots of young people. This is nice to see. I was mostly impressed by the choral parts and the voices of Agnieszka Rehlis (Hagar) and Michal Wajda-Chlopicki (countertenor), but all the singers did very well, considering how overly dramatic parts of the score were. It was a nice touch to include women (I think there were none in SFOpera version by Jake Heggie) and the ballet sequences a very good.
I had high hopes for this production, but now think maybe Knapik’s work is better suited for concert halls. This Moby Dick is more of an oratorio piece, with deep religious feeling, choirs, prayers, so characteristic of contemporary Polish music. You can immerse yourself in it and let it bring your own images. But Opera needs people of flesh and blood – just my opinion. A noble effort though.