Dead Man Walking

DMW 094-dscf5419-mid500Eugene Opera presented the Pacific Northwest premiere of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking in March, 2013. Based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean, this operatic “masterpiece of music, words, and emotion” tells the story of the nun’s interactions with a death row inmate. With his powerful voice and “arresting stage presence,” baritone Michael Mayes gave a stunning performance as convicted murderer Joseph De Rocher. International artist Janis Kelly, acclaimed as Pat Nixon in the Metropolitan Opera’s broadcast of Nixon in China, shone in the role of Sister Helen.

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Critics said “Eugene Opera’s production of Dead Man Walking … is first-rate. With high profile singers for each major role, the opera company assembled this gritty, realistic opera with a confidence born of last year’s success in Nixon in China.” (The Register-Guard)


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The opera performances were the climax of a month-long program of city-wide events exploring issues related to criminal justice and the death penalty, including Prisons and Peace: A UNESCO-University of Oregon international conference; the Eugene Public Library’s Community Read of Sister Helen’s book; the 40th anniversary of Sponsors, Inc., and exhibits at The Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. The series was capped by the visit to Eugene of both Sister Helen Prejean and composer Jake Heggie.

Images by Cliff Coles

Dead Man Walking

March 15 & 17, 2013
Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center for the Performing Arts

Music by Jake Heggie
Libretto by Terrence McNally. Based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ.
Commissioned by the San Franscisco Opera, and premiered at the War Memorial Opera House on October 7, 2000.
First performance in the Pacific Northwest by Eugene Opera on Friday March 15, 2013.

Sister Helen Prejean — Janis Kelly
Joseph de Rocher — Michael Mayes
Mrs. Patrick de Rocher — Susanne Mentzer
Sister Rose — Brooke Cagno
George Benton — Philip Engdahl
Fr. Grenville — George Shirley
Kitty Hart — Laura Wayte
Owen Hart — Mark Beudert
Jade Boucher — Marieke Schuurs
Howard Boucher — Sandy Naishtat
Motorcycle Cop — Harry Baechtel
Older Brother to Joseph — Tim Wilcox
Younger Brother to Joseph — Calob Hartsfield
Sister Catherine — Teri Hoy
Sister Lillian — Judy Morris
Prison Guards — Marco Valerio, Harry Baechtel
First Mother — Mary Moyer
Mrs. Charlton — Suzanne Shapiro
Five inmates — Matthew Leach, Richard Frye, Timothy Wilcox, Stephen Vorhes, Greg Widdicomb
Solo offstage inmate voice — John Jantzi
An inmate — Colin Corbett
Teenage girl — Polly Bond
Teenage Boy — Mat Bostrom
Anthony de Rocher — Dylan Skye Kennedy
A Paralegal — Colleen Gaskill
Jimmy — Townes Genoves

Eugene Opera Orchestra, Chorus, and Children’s Chorus
Conductor — Andrew Bisantz
Stage Director — Sam Helfrich
Chorus Master — John Jantzi
Children’s Chorus Master — David Fitch
Stage Manager — Erin Empey
Costume Designer — Jonna Hayden
Lighting Designer — Michael Peterson
Scenery Designer – Peter Beudert
Makeup Designer – Sarah Clifford

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