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Composer returns to see ‘Ahab’ make final stand in symphony

Composer Jake Heggie said he didn’t think it would take three years to write the Ahab Symphony for the University of North Texas College of Music and the UNT Institute for the Advancement of the Arts.

Three years later, the rising America opera composer is plunged headfirst into the rehearsals for the piece. The UNT Symphony Orchestra and Grand Chorus will perform the symphony on Wednesday night, with tenor Richard Croft singing the solo portions, which are Captain Ahab’s observations on the final day he will pursue the white whale.

“Three years ago, I’d had the opera Moby-Dick premiered at the Dallas Opera, and it went really well. A composition professor had me come talk to his students, which I love to do, and I was in the hallway after one of those classes when I ran into [College of Music] Dean James Scott,” Heggie said.

Scott told Heggie that the college had reached its turn to suggest an artist for the Institute for the Advancement of the Arts residency program. The dean suggested the composer consider the program.

Heggie agreed, and then accepted a commission. He said he wanted to revisit Captain Ahab from his opera, based on Herman Melville’s famous novel Moby-Dick.

“I could have suggested a song cycle. I could have suggested a new work. I could have suggested just about anything, but I really wanted to revisit Ahab,” Heggie said. “Opera is very much tied to action. I felt that there was so much inside of the character of Captain Ahab that I could explore. And Richard Croft is on the faculty here, and he’s a major singer — an incredible singer. I just felt like I needed to take advantage of that.”

— Lucinda Breeding


What: Tenor Richard Croft, the UNT Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Itkin, and the UNT Grand Chorus conducted by Jerry McCoy present composer Jake Heggie’s work.

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Winspear Performance Hall at the Murchison Performing Arts Center, on the north side of I-35E at North Texas Boulevard

Details: Tickets cost $10 for adults; and $8 for seniors, UNT faculty and staff, non-UNT students, children and groups of 10 or more. Admission is free for UNT students with valid ID (must be picked up at the box office). To buy tickets, visit  or call 940-369-7802.

On the Web: The concert will be streamed online at .