Gene Scheer: Moby Dick, in partnership with the Chicago Opera Theater

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Wednesday April 24

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6:30 PM  –  8:00 PM


Grammy-nominated opera librettist Gene Scheer discusses the process of transforming Herman Melville's magnum opus Moby Dick into a critically-acclaimed opera and finds parallels between writing classic literature and writing operatic verses. He is joined by Northwestern University Professor Betsy Erkkila. Combining musical performance and literary discussion, the Singers & Songwriters series takes visitors to the intersection of music, poetry, literature, and beyond.


When you RSVP to this program, you'll be entered to win TWO tickets to the Chicago Opera Theater's productions of Moby-Dick, on April 25th and April 28th. Winners must be in attendance at our program in order to claim tickets. Featuring a sprawling chorus and massive orchestra, Moby-Dick is an epic feat of musical storytelling. This thrilling tale of adventure, passion, and vengeance is a not-to-be-missed event.

About Gene Scheer: his work is noted for its scope and versatility. With the composer Jake Heggie, he has collaborated on many projects, including the 2010 Dallas Opera world premiere, Moby-Dick, starring Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab; Three Decembers (Houston Grand Opera), which starred Frederica von Stade; and the lyric drama To Hell and Back (Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra), which featured Patti LuPone. Other works by Scheer and Heggie include Camille Claudel: Into the fire and an operatic adaption of It’s a Wonderful Life.

With the composer Steven Stucky, Mr. Scheer wrote the oratorio August 4, 1964, for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The work was nominated for a Grammy in 2012 for best classical composition. With Jennifer Higdon, Mr. Scheer wrote an operatic adaptation of Cold Mountain, which premiered in the summer of 2015 at the Santa Fe Opera. This work won the International Opera award, presented in London, for the best World premiere in 2015. Recently, along with Ms. Higdon, Mr. Scheer was nominated for a Grammy for his work on Cold Mountain for best classical composition.

Also a composer in his own right, Mr. Scheer has written a number of songs for singers such as Renée Fleming, Sylvia McNair, Stephanie Blythe, Jennifer Larmore, Denyce Graves, and Nathan Gunn. The distinguished documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns, prominently featured Mr. Scheer’s song “American Anthem” (as sung by Norah Jones) in his Emmy Award-winning World War II documentary for PBS entitled The War.

Betsy Erkkila (Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley) is the Henry Sanborn Noyes Professor of Literature. Her teaching and research are in the field of American literary and cultural studies, with a particular interest in American poetry, comparative American cultures, race and gender studies, and cultural and political theory. She has been awarded fellowships by the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center, the American Council for Learned Societies, and the Fulbright Foundation. She is the author of multiple books, including The Whitman Revolution: Why Poetry Matters and The Wicked Sisters: Women Poets, Literary History, and Discord. She is currently completing a book entitled Imagining the Revolution: Literature and Politics in Insurrectionary America, which was supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2010-2011.

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