Ahab’s Wife Or the Star Gazerby Sena Jeter Naslund (2000)
“Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last,” begins Una Spenser, the heroine of Naslund’s retelling of Moby Dick from the perspective of Captain Ahab’s briefly mentioned wife. In Una’s world, it is Ahab who is a minor player as she spins out the tale of her own unusual life that includes being raised by lighthouse keepers, running off to sea disguised as a boy and being shipwrecked. Naslund’s vast, sensual novel brings an inventive feminist take to the ultimate masculine epic.
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyleby Avi (1990)
One of the best protagonists in modern young adult fiction, 13-year-old Charlotte Doyle is sent from her English girls’ school to her family in Rhode Island aboard the Seahawk. An unexpected mutiny throws the ship into chaos as Charlotte’s loyalties and survival skills are tested. Avi won a Newbery Honor for this thrilling, vivid adventure at sea with a heroine who moves from being a polite and proper little girl to a smart, capable young woman.
Described in the Irish Times as inhabiting the eccentric fringe of Irish music, the elliptical Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh can be heard in this performance of Moby Dick by the Gare St. Lazare Players with whom he works regularly. Referencing everything from jazz to punk through traditional Irish music, he has transformed the genre. Born in Dublin, Ó Raghallaigh spent several summers working in the Irish Traditional Archives in Dublin where a treasure trove of old recordings deeply influenced his style and repertoire. His recording Kitty Lie Over with uilleann piper Mick O’Brien was named No. 1 Traditional Album of 2003. A frequent collaborator, Ó Raghallaigh is part of two traditional music groups: The Gloaming and This Is How We Fly. He plays a fiddle with ten strings, five of which are sympathetic, along with tin whistle, flute and uilleann pipes.
Songs & Stories from Moby Dick (1999)
Since performance artist Laurie Anderson was just with us last month in Delusion at ArtsEmerson, it was a surprise to discover she had her own take on Melville’s classic in her Songs & Stories of Moby Dick. She only included about ten percent of the actual text along with her signature use of multimedia and in this case a small quartet of musicians and the actor, Tom Nelis, who portrays Captain Ahab. Anderson recalls her own changing relationship with the novel: “I had a vague recollection of being bored by the novel by a lot of the whaling details…Then I read it again. And it was a complete revelation…the book moved through ideas about history, science, religion and the natural world towards Melville’s complex and dark conclusions of the meaning of life. Being a somewhat dark person myself, I fell in love with the idea that the mysterious thing you look for your whole life will eat you alive…”
Moby Dick, the Opera (2010)
Moby Dick might not seem a likely candidate for operatic interpretation, but composer Jake Heggie has long been affiliated with innovative, challenging subject matter; his first opera, based on the film Dead Man Walking, was an international hit. For Moby Dick, Heggie teamed with librettist Gene Scheer in a commission from the Dallas Opera which premiered to extraordinary acclaim in April 2010. The Washington Post raved: “Moby Dick turned out to be one of the most satisfying new operas I’ve seen premiered…the opening-night crowd in Dallas broke into spontaneous applause three times during the first half, mad screamed and yelled its approval at the curtain call. It was a wonderful and rare reminder that new opera truly can excite people if it’s done right.”