- Dead Man Walking, opera - Jake Heggie - Patrick Summers - Ian Robertson - Magen Solomon - San Francisco Opera Chorus - Catherine Cook - Nicolle Foland - Susan Graham - David Harper - Frederick Matthews - Robert Orth - Frederica Von Stade - Richard Walker - Terrence McNally - Christophe Capacci
When the media stop insisting that Dead Man Walking is "about" the death penalty, then perhaps Jake Heggie's opera will finally be appreciated for what it is: a powerful and intimate lyric drama. It may not be a perfect work. The composer probably erred, for example, in opting not to write any music for the opera's climactic moment, the death of condemned inmate Joe de Rocher in the electric chair (an effect that held the audience spellbound in the theater but leaves a hole when listened to on disc). There is so much to admire, however, that Heggie should be forgiven for any miscalculations in his first opera. Few composers today write so instinctively for the voice as Heggie does, and fewer still are able to write a heart-stopping ensemble like the Act I sextet "You don't know what it's like to bear a child." And while he draws freely on American popular styles, like rock 'n' roll and gospel, the music's most poignant moments are in a more personal lyrical idiom. Perhaps the greatest indication of the composer's success is that he has created such memorable characters, especially Sister Helen Prejean and Mrs. de Rocher (the inmate's mother). And how marvelously Susan Graham and Frederica von Stade fill these roles on this recording of the opera's premiere production in San Francisco. Actually, the cast is terrific from top to bottom, and conductor Patrick Summers deserves considerable credit for inspiring such a dramatically incisive interpretation. The recorded sound is clear and richly detailed, with minimal audience noise. One has to look back to West Side Story to find such an exciting and original piece of American musical theater.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Too many operas are written without a mind toward drama or stagecraft. Dead Man Walking, the most successful opera to be written in the past decade, is tonal and engaging. Mann's libretto can be too focus on relaying the story, but Heggie provides all the emotion in the music. Definitely worth a listen.