It’s the book many of us started and never finished: Moby Dick, the massive novel about an elusive whale and the enraged man seeking it, Captain Ahab. The classic is the basis for a new opera coming to San Diego in a couple of months. And it’s got us intrigued. How do you tell such a big, wet story on stage?

One big part of the effort is to find the crew of the Pequod, Ahab’s boat. Fifteen men will have to climb, tumble, fight and slide down a wall as the story unfolds, giving the audience what appears to be a bird’s eye view of the sea. We dropped in to a conference room downtown last week and watched as more than 40 men presented themselves for consideration. It was funny to be at an opera audition and not hear any singing.

Here’s a peek at the tryouts with photographs, and here’s our video with NBC7 San Diego. Watch more flips like these:


The scope of the story isn’t the only unusual piece. Unlike many of the operas performed in San Diego and around the world, this opera’s composer is living. Jake Heggie was in San Diego last week for a conversation aired on UCSD-TV where he compared writing a new opera to growing orchids in Alaska, because the art form isn’t as commercially popular as it once was.

New operas are so fragile,” he said.

You’re reading the Arts Report, our weekly compilation of the region’s arts and culture news.

Difference of Opinion

• The old yellow “Caliente!” racetrack mural on the side of the decrepit California Theater downtown is planned to be be painted over with an ad for Newcastle Brown Ale. A senior city planner focused on historical resources said the mural wasn’t part of the original ’20s-era theater and “does not itself have historical significance.” (KPBS)

Local group Art Fist Collective introduced a petition to save the mural online.

• A series of pieces in Sunday’s Union-Tribune argued for and against the proposed “wings” and parking structure on downtown’s Navy Pier. In support of the plan: key backer Malin Burnham, who exhorts the city to embrace the icon, and the paper’s own editorial board, which opined, “Wings of Freedom is not kitsch. Big and bold, most definitely.”

On the other side: County supervisor and architect Ron Roberts, who calls it all an “intertwined mess.”

Catch up on this topic with our Reader’s Guide, and read more from our own conversations with Burnham and Roberts.


Happening Here

• The economy “felt scary” this summer to La Jolla Playhouse’s managing director Mike Rosenberg, rockier than his previous few years in town. Rosenberg and compatriots in local arts organizations sat down for a roundtable discussion on performing arts scene survival in San Diego. (San Diego Daily Transcript)

• After a story in CityBeat highlighted the trouble with performance permits that local troupe Technomania Circus was having in Logan Heights, the city agreed to let the group continue to operate its venue as a theater without having to pay more than $17,000 in fees. From CityBeat’s update:

Alvarez said he’s seeing “more and more” problems come up as the neighborhood outgrows its community plan, which hasn’t been updated since 1987.

• A new mural by popular graffiti collective Writerz Blok that invokes images from the San Diego Museum of Art’s modern Mexican painting exhibit was unveiled officially last week. (KPBS)

• • The San Diego Art Fair, previously held at the Grand Del Mar and the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, will move to Balboa Park next year and hopes to create stronger collaborations with the park’s museums. (U-T)

• A proposal for the Unified Port of San Diego envisions the waterfront exploding with cartoon floats and festivals. (U-T)

• After six years, Cygnet Theatre is performing its radio-play version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the last year. Theater critic Pam Kragen is “sorry to see this slick and well-polished heartwarmer go.” (North County Times)

We’ll have interviews with some of the cast members this week on Behind the Scene TV on NBC 7 San Diego on Thursday.

• This reminded me of the plans to add visual cues outside Symphony Towers that the orchestra lives inside: A series of skyscraper-sized portraits of musicians from Los Angeles’s Chamber Orchestra celebrates its 20th anniversary this month. (LA Times)

• A few San Diegans spoke to a conference in the Middle East last month about a proposed arts and design district in East Village and the city’s 2015 celebration of Balboa Park. Developer David Malmuth, Art Fair co-founder Ann Berchtold and the Urban Land Institute’s Mary Lydon “made the pitch at the invitation-only ‘Arts in Motion’ conference at the recently opened Royal Opera House of Muscat, Oman, a sultanate of 3.6 million at the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula.” (U-T)

• Diversionary Theatre, focused on LGBT issues, announced it will put on the world premiere of a new musical called “Harmony, Kansas.”

• In addition to snagging the Grand Orchid in this year’s local architecture awards, the Little Italy establishment Craft and Commerce made a list of the top 50 bars in the United States. (Food & Wine)

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Kelly Bennett is the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach her directly at or 619.325.0531. Or you can keep up with her on Twitter @kellyrbennett or on Facebook.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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