Notes & Reviews:
"Cathartic, uplifting and humanizing" wrote the Houston Chronicle, reporting on this Houston Grand Opera production of Jake Heggies's Dead Man Walking. Joyce didonato as Sister Helen Prejean, who becomes a counselor to murderer on death row in Lousiana, shares the stage with her idol, veteran mezzo Frederica von Stade, here making her farewell to opera. Like Tim Robbins' Oscar-winning 1995 movie of the same name on Sister Helen's real-life memoirs: a leading advocate for abolition of the death penalty in the USA, she acted as a counselor to a prisoner on death row in Lousiana. : However great an operatic and theatrical experience, continued the Houston Chronicle, "dead Man Walking makes its greatest impact as a purely human ne."
"DiDonato sang luminously, affectingly conveying the altruistic nun’s conflicting emotions... Von Stade was dramatically and musically heartbreaking in a role written for her, Measha Brueggergosman’s glowing soprano and spunky acting enriched her portrayal of Sister Rose... Summers... was in total sync with Heggie’s churning, throbbing, colourful score." -Opera Magazine
If the opera seemed good before, it's rather better now...DiDonato [comes to the vocal lines almost as heightened speech...[and] leaves no question that she'll get a confession out of the killer. DiDonato also makes the nun and murderer soul mates...As the killer, Philip Cutler is prickly and vocally imposing in his early scenes. But later on he becomes rhetorically understated in ways that make his ultimate confession even more devastating.
International Record Review, September 2012
Heggie made a few minor changes to the score after the premiere and these can be heard only on this new release. In many ways, then, this is an excellent and desirable second recording...it captures all of this opera's emotions, and then some.
MusicWeb International, June 2012
The cast fielded in Houston is quite simply superb, certainly matching that given to Heggie by San Francisco at the world premiFre. Joyce DiDonato is magnificent in the leading role, quite a match for Susan Graham in the earlier recording.
The Guardian, 10th May 2012
The work is an immense affirmation of opera's potential to deal with the most pressing contemporary issues...The recording...is sensational...In one of her most subtly characterised performances to date, Joyce DiDonato plays Prejean...Frederica von Stade is devastating as De Rocher's desperate mother, while Patrick Summers' conducting is exceptional in its passion and commitment.
BBC Music Magazine, June 2012
Less of an opera than a piece of post-Sondheim musical theatre, the piece nevertheless receives a committed performance here, with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato oozing sincerity in the role of Sister Helen, and baritone Philip Cutlip's rugged Joe ranging from nonchalance to desperation. Mezzo Frederica von Stade is movingly sympathetic as Joe's mother.
Recording information: Houston Grand Opera (2011-01-24&2011-02-02&2011-).
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Works DetailsHeggie, Jake : Dead Man Walking, opera
- Conductor: Patrick Summers
- Ensemble: Houston Grand Opera Chorus
- Notes: BCM (2011-01-24&2011-02-02&2011-); Houston Grand Opera (2011-01-24&2011-02-02&2011-); Megatrax, North Hollywood, CA (2011-01-24&2011-02-02&2011-)
- Running Time: 2 min. 51 sec.
- Period Time: Contemporary
- Form: Opera/Operetta
- Written: 2000