Heggie: Dead Man Walking (2-CD) – Joyce DiDonato, Frederica von Stade

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Heggie: Dead Man Walking (2-CD) – Joyce DiDonato, Frederica von Stade

Composer: Jake Heggie
Artists: Joyce DiDonato, Philip Cutlip, Frederica von Stade, Measha Brueggergosman, Hector Vásquez, Beau Gibson, Cheryl Parrish, John Packard, Susanne Mentzer, Jon Kolbet, Michael Sumuel, Houston Grand Opera Orchestra & Chorus
Conductor: Patrick Summers
Number of Discs: 2
Label: Erato
Release Date: February 29, 2012

“Cathartic, uplifting and humanizing,” wrote the Houston Chronicle of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking. Like Tim Robbins’s 1995 movie of the same name, the opera draws on Sister Helen Prejean’s real-life memoirs. A leading advocate for abolition of the death penalty in the United States, she acted as a counselor to a prisoner on death row in Louisiana. “However great an operatic and theatrical experience,” continued the Chronicle, “Dead Man Walking makes its greatest impact as a purely human one.” 

Quite apart from the power of the opera itself, the production had a special personal significance for Joyce DiDonato. Her career was launched in the late 1990s with three years in Houston Grand Opera’s young artist program, and in this production she shared the stage with her idol, fellow mezzo soprano Frederica von Stade. Playing Mrs. de Rocher, the mother of the convicted murderer, Von Stade made her farewell to the operatic stage with this production.



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Dead Man Walking

The most widely performed new opera of the last two decades, Dead Man Walking is adapted from the groundbreaking memoir by Sister Helen Prejean. It concerns her ministry to condemned murderers on death row, and in bringing this powerful story to the operatic stage, composer Jake Heggie created a score that recalls Sister Helen’s prose and her advocacy style: direct, unaffected, and unflinchingly honest—but not without a deep understanding of the heart and humanity inside each one of us.


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