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Heggie: Dead Man Walking (Live recording of 2000 world premiere production)

Susan Graham , Frederica von Stade , John Packard , Theresa Hamm-Smith , Gary Rideout , Catherine Cook , Jake Heggie , Patrick Summers , San Francisco Opera Chorus and Orchestra Audio CD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Orchestra: San Francisco Opera Chorus and Orchestra
  • Conductor: Patrick Summers
  • Composer: Jake Heggie
  • Audio CD (January 8, 2002)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Alliance
  • ASIN: B000059ZHR
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,022 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Prelude - Patrick Summers
2. Prologue - Patrick Summers
3. Act One, Scene 1. Hope House: 'He Will Gather Us Around'
4. Act One, Scene 2. The Drive To Angola State Prison: 'Be Careful,' People Have Always Told Me.
5. Act One, Scene 2. The Drive To Angola State Prison: Aria: This Journey. This Journey To Christ.
6. Act One, Scene 3. Outside Of Angola State Penitentiary: Sister Helen? I've Been Waiting For You.
7. Act One, Scene 4. Father Grenville's Office: Some Of Them Didn't Look So Bad.
8. Act One, Scene 4. Father Grenville's Office: I Don't Like That Man.
9. Act One, Scene 5. The Walk Through Death Row: Woman On The Tier!
10. Act One, Scene 6. The Death Row Visiting Room: Thank You.
See all 17 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Prelude - Patrick Summers
2. Act Two, Scene 1. Joseph's Cell: 31...32...33... - John Packard
3. Act Two, Scene 2. Sister Helen's Bedroom: Oh!... Now And At The Hour Of Our Death. Amen.
4. Act Two, Scene 2. Sister Helen's Bedroom: Duet/Scene 3, Joseph's Cell. August 4 In The Evening: Sometimes Forgiveness Is In The Smallest Gesture./Well? Well?
5. Act Two, Scene 3. Joseph's Cell. August 4 In The Evening: What Time Is It?
6. Act Two, Scene 4. The Visiting Room: Wow! Those New Ford Mustangs Are So Cool.
7. Act Two, Scene 4. The Visiting Room: Aria: Dont' Say A Word.
8. Act Two, Scene 4. The Visiting Room: Who Will Walk With Me?
9. Act Two, Scene 5. Outside The Death House: Good Evening.
10. Act Two, Scene 5. Outside The Death House: Duet: I've Said Some Harsh Things.
See all 16 tracks on this disc

Editorial Reviews

Dead Man Walking opens with a brutal rape-murder scene and ends with a passage, silent except for the clicks of the machine delivering fluids that execute a condemned man, followed by Susan Graham intoning the spiritual "He will gather us around." Those searing scenes flank that rarity, a contemporary opera that deals with an important issue--the death penalty--with balance and empathy while sustaining dramatic tension, the narrative conveyed with musical alertness. Small wonder that the opera has been so successful. It's based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean and the acclaimed Tim Robbins film made from it about a nun who befriends a condemned man and brings him to face the redemptive truth of his actions. The recording was made during the San Francisco premiere of the opera and has all the intensity of a live performance, in addition to the overwhelming power of the story and the music.

It would be hard to imagine a better performance, too. Susan Graham is perfect as Sister Helen, singing with purity of tone and fiery passion. She's delightful, too, in the humorous bits that leaven what would otherwise be a story too harrowing for the medium. Frederica von Stade, as the murderer's mother, is as good, and baritone John Packard as the condemned man is a real find--a singing actor totally convincing throughout, both as the hardened killer and later as the repentant man finally accepting responsibility for his deeds. The supporting cast is also first-rate, and Patrick Summers conducts with unerring sweep and fervor. Jake Heggie's score may lack hummable arias (other than the traditional hymn that plays so important a part throughout), but the orchestration is fresh, the vocal lines are grateful, and the range is wide, moving seamlessly from modern romanticism to bits of pop and rock. No small part of the opera's success is due to Terrence McNally's dramatically cohesive libretto. A triumph for all concerned. --Dan Davis

Customer Reviews

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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Opera for a twenty-first century audience May 8, 2002
By Tyler
Format:Audio CD
Jake Heggie's first opera, Dead Man Walking, is a triumph of musical and dramatic genius. McNally's libretto tightens the scope of Prejean's lengthy narrative to its dramatic essentials. The story is moving and poignant: an exploration of the intense and vivid emotions surrounding this deeply complicated process, but mixed with wonderful bits of humor and lighter sentiment. The duet about Las Vegas is particularly entertaining, and also touching in its personability.
Heggie is at home writing for the voice, which is apparent in the hymn "He will gather us around", but also in Joe's aria "A Warm Night...", the Act 2 Duet between Sister Helen and Sister Rose, and also von Stade's moving goodbye to Joe in Act 2. It's rediculously inaccurate to say that there are no hummable tunes in the opera, and every one of those tunes has a special place on the dramatic trajectory of this powerful work. The singing is also fabulous. John Packard is better live than on recording, but the acting comes across wonderfully. Susan Graham's use of myriad vocal colors is fantastic, and her crystal diction is vital for this wonderfully vernacular libretto. It's hard to believe that this is a live recording; I've never been in an opera house where people were that quiet. Just further proof, I suppose, of the powerful grip that the opera has over an audience.
The most important aspect of the work, though, is its accessibility to both veteran opera-philes and those who have very little exposure to the genre. It's inclusion of musical material more classified in a gospel or rock idiom and it's use of motives for emotional impact work to include the audience rather than alienate them.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh My God!!!! February 5, 2002
Format:Audio CD
I first listened to this recording on a plane last week. The women sitting next to me asked me "If I was OK." I was frequently moved to tears. I listened to it again while I was laying on the beach on vacation last week. Again, the people around me wondered if I was OK or not - more tears. Most everyone probably already knows the story of this opera so I won't discuss that here, but I will say that the condensation of the plot is amazingly concise and to the point. The singing is phenomenal - Susan Graham brings incredible life to the role of Sisten Helen. Flicka von Stade, as the mother, brings a pathos and humanity to her role.
Buy this recording, listen to if frequently - you will be moved.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Moving 20th Century Opera April 7, 2002
Format:Audio CD
This opera is quite moving. While it doesn't have the showstoppers of a Donizetti or Rossini opera some of the reviewers are looking for (few, if any modern operas will as they are through-composed), it has some haunting music that is quite moving. Time indeed will tell, and I believe that it will show this opera to be one of the greatest from the recent additions to American opera....That is missing the point and missing the enjoyment of a beautiful work of American music. The performances are superb. Buy this recording and judge for yourself. You won't be disappointed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenging in many dimensions June 8, 2004
By M M
Format:Audio CD
I think that this opera (or it's subject more generally) gets to the heart of the entire debate about capital punishment - if we could devise a test that was perfect in its ability to distinguish the guilty from the innocent, would we still be willing to execute people for horrendous crimes. Having just seen this opera in a performance in Pittsburgh, I'm not sure. One of the amazing things about this opera is the extent to which it presents the conflicts associated with the death penalty without manipulating the observer. Is this despicable person really worth anyone's time? Is there some sense in which his death is warranted as retribution for his crimes? Would his death provide any sort of compensation to the surviving victims of his crimes? I honestly have no idea. But an extraordinary feature of this opera is the way in which it introduces these issues without biasing the viewer. During the after-show dinner, my wife and I discussed these issues a number of times. Any work that induces that type of reflection about the deeper underlying issues is worthwhile from my point of view.
In terms of the music, I suppose that there are moments of power and beauty. We're talking about a modern opera, so there aren't many hummable songs (see Broadway if you want those.) I suspect that the entire endeavor is more effective in person.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Opera is Fabulous. June 20, 2003
Format:Audio CD
I recently saw the Opera in Detroit, Michigan. It was a wonderful experience (but isn't going to the opera always a wonderful experience?). I thought it was well done-- the music was a tad too 20-th Century for my tastes, but I still loved it!
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