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FULL THE MAKING OF DEAD MAN WALKING (Heggie) San Francisco CA 2000 Susan Graham, Frederica Von Stade, John Packard, Robert Orth

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Information on the Performance
Information about the Recording
  • Published by: San Francisco Opera Association  
  • Date Published: 2001  
  • Format: Broadcast
  • Quality Video: 3 Audio:3
  • Subtitles: yessubs, ensubs  
  • Video Recording from: YouTube     FULL VIDEO

Dead Man Walking is the first opera composed by American Jake Heggie, with a libretto by playwright Terrence McNally. Based on the book of the same name by Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., the work premiered on October 7, 2000, at the War Memorial Opera House, produced by the San Francisco Opera.

Performance history
The 2000 premiere production was commissioned by then-General Director Lotfi Mansouri. The stage director was Joe Mantello, Conductor was Patrick Summers. Sets, costumes and lighting were designed by Michael Yeargan, Sam Fleming, and Jennifer Tipton, respectively. Susan Graham created the role of Sister Helen, with John Packard as Joseph De Rocher (a composite of Elmo Patrick Sonnier & Robert Lee Willie). Frederica von Stade performed the role of Mrs De Rocher, the convict’s mother.

The Australian premiere and first performance outside the United States took place in August 2003 at the State Opera of South Australia, with Kirsti Harms as Sister Helen and Teddy Tahu Rhodes as Joseph De Rocher. Sister Helen Prejean was in the audience. The production was nominated for seven Helpmann Awards in 2004, winning four: “Best Opera”, Best Direction of an Opera”, “Best Female Performer in a Supporting Role in an Opera”, and “Best Male in an Operatic Performance”. The opera has since been performed numerous times across the United States and in other countries.

The Canadian premiere took place in January 2006 in Calgary, Alberta, with Daniel Okulitch in the role of Joseph De Rocher. The European premiere was given in May 2006 at the Semperoper in Dresden, Germany. The same production had its opening night on September 26, 2007, at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna and also played at the Malmö Opera in Malmö, Sweden. In 2007 it was revived for limited run at the State Theatre in Sydney and that same year was given its university and Rocky Mountain regional premiere at the University of Colorado at Boulder. It was also produced in St. Louis, Missouri, by the Union Avenue Opera Company in 2011.

A new orchestration of the opera, for 31 musicians, prepared under Jake Heggie’s direction, was premiered at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco in February 2015 by Opera Parallèle. The UK staged premiere took place at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in May 2019, with Carolyn Holt as Sister Helen and Mark Nathan as Joseph de Rocher.

The opera received a new production in March 2016 in New Orleans Opera, starring baritone Michael Mayes. The production, created by director Tomer Zvulun, traveled to The Atlanta Opera in March 2019, where it was performed by an all star cast, including Jamie Barton, Michael Mayes, Maria Zifchak, Jay Hunter Morris, Kevin Burdette and Karen Slack.

A production starring J’Nai Bridges and Dan Okulitch was created for the inaugural Vancouver Opera Festival in 2017, directed by Joel Ivany, and remounted at Minnesota Opera in 2018. It was the first time that Sister Helen Prejean was presented by a woman of color.

Opera Delaware performed Dead Man Walking as part as their 2019 Festival.

The opera made its Lyric Opera of Chicago debut in November 2019, starring Ryan McKinny, Patricia Racette, and Susan Graham (who had played Sister Helen at the San Francisco premiere, but here played Mrs. De Rocher). The production was favorably received.

The opera was performed at the Israeli Opera in December 2019, in the same production by Tomer Zvulun. It feature Mayes and Zifchak, as well as the role debut of Maya Lahyani.

A production staged by Ivo van Hove was supposed to be presented at the Metropolitan Opera during the 2020-21 season, but was postponed following the cancellation of the entire season due to COVID-19. The Metropolitan Opera has since slated the production for 2023

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