Riding to the rescue of the opera ‘Moby-Dick,’ baton in hand


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Due to illness, San Diego Opera’s resident conductor Karen Keltner has withdrawn from the company’s production of Jake Heggie’s opera “Moby Dick.” She will be replaced by Kentucky Opera conductor Joe Mechavich, who recently conducted ‘Moby-Dick’ in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Mechavich, who arrived in San Diego for rehearsal on Monday, was scheduled to conduct upcoming performances of Kentucky Opera’s “The Merry Widow,” but withdrew because Kentucky Opera management had decided to hire non-union players to perform for that production. The conductor has not resigned from his post as the Kentucky company’s resident conductor.


“It’s been well over a year that there has been an impasse between the Louisville Orchestra Inc. and the union players in Kentucky and this has had adverse effects for Kentucky Opera,” Mechavich said in an interview Wednesday. “On Feb. 2, I was informed by the management of Kentucky Opera that a group of non-union players had been organized with intent to perform for Kentucky Opera’s production of ‘The Merry Widow.’ On Feb. 10, I withdrew from the production.”

Mechavich, who conducted his last “Moby-Dick” performance at Calgary Opera on Feb. 3, said he was at home in Philadelphia when he got a morning call on Sunday, Feb. 12, from Ian D. Campbell, general director and artistic director of San Diego Opera saying, ‘Get on a plane, we’re going to need you.” The conductor boarded a plane on Monday and was in San Diego in time for the evening rehearsal. The show opens on Saturday.

“I’m absolutely beside myself to be doing it again, this show changed my life in Calgary,” Mechavich said. “As a conductor, you can feel it when the audience is completely engrossed. I can feel it on the back of my neck. You could hear a pin drop in Calgary.” ALSO:

Getting the opera ‘Moby Dick’ up and sailing

Opera Review: ‘Simon Boccanegra’ by Los Angeles Opera

Theater review: ‘And God Created Great Whales’ at REDCAT


-- Diane Haithman