A Talkback session will follow the premiere of this opera.
Go behind the scenes, ask questions, give feedback, and learn about the process of bringing the new operas to life in unique and challenging circumstances with the Creative Team and Artists.
ABOUT the OPERA
March, 2020. MOM and DAD are staring at the TV in the living room. Their 18-year old SON is settled into a deep chair, scrolling through his phone trying to ignore them. Their 22-year old DAUGHTER enters in pajamas and a robe. MOM and DAD are high, though DAUGHTER doesn’t know it. High times and hilarity ensue.
COMPOSER & LIBRETTIST
Jake Heggie is the American composer of the operas Dead Man Walking (libretto by Terrence McNally), Moby-Dick (libretto by Gene Scheer), It’s A Wonderful Life (Scheer), If I Were You (Scheer), Great Scott (McNally), Three Decembers (Scheer), For a Look or a Touch (Scheer) and Two Remain (Scheer), among others. In addition to eight full-length operas and several one-acts, Heggie has composed nearly 300 art songs, as well as concerti, chamber music, choral and orchestral works. He recently completed and recorded Songs for Murdered Sisters, a song cycle based on new poems by Margaret Atwood, created for baritone Joshua Hopkins and commissioned by Houston Grand Opera. Earlier this year, he completed INTONATIONS: Songs from the Violins of Hope (texts by Gene Scheer), a dramatic song cycle featuring mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and violinist Daniel Hope, recorded live for Pentatone. The label recently released a new all-Heggie recording titled Unexpected Shadows, featuring mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton and cellist Matt Haimovitz. Heggie is currently at work with Gene Scheer and Jawole Zollar on a new opera for the Houston Grand Opera titled Intelligence.
Heggie’s operas – most created with Gene Scheer or the late Terrence McNally – have been produced on five continents. In 2019, Dead Man Walking received its 70th international production at the Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv, the first American opera to be produced by that company. New York’s Metropolitan Opera has announced Dead Man Walking for a future season in a bold new production by director Ivo van Hove, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Since its San Francisco Opera premiere in 2000, Dead Man Walking has been recorded live twice and performed more than 300 times, making it the most-performed American opera of the 21st Century. In addition to major productions throughout the USA, Dead Man Walking has been seen in Dresden, Vienna, London, Madrid, Sydney, Adelaide, Calgary, Montreal, Cape Town, Dublin, Copenhagen, and Malmö. Moby-Dick has received 12 international productions since its 2010 premiere at The Dallas Opera; San Francisco Opera’s production was telecast as part of Great Performances’ 40th anniversary season and released on DVD (EuroArts). It is also the subject of a book by Robert Wallace, titled Heggie & Scheer’s Moby-Dick – A Grand opera for the 21st Century (UNT Press). Three Decembers, Heggie & Scheer’s three-character chamber opera, has received 30 international productions and was recently recorded by Opera San Jose in a new production starring Susan Graham.
A Guggenheim Fellow, Heggie has also served as a mentor for Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative and CU Boulder’s New Opera Workshop. In 2016, he was awarded the Eddie Medora King Prize by the UT Austin Butler School of Music. He was also the recipient of the Champion Award from the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus in a private concert that featured a performance by the great Patti LuPone. Heggie was the keynote speaker for the 2016 meeting of the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) in Dallas and has given commencement addresses at the Eastman School of Music and Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music. He is a frequent guest artist and master teacher at universities and conservatories, including Boston University, Bucknell, Cincinnati Conservatory, Cornell, Eastman, CU Boulder, Northwestern, Peabody Conservatory, Roosevelt, The Royal Conservatory in Toronto, San Diego State, UNI, UNT, UT Austin, USC’s Thornton School, Vanderbilt University, and at festivals such as SongFest at the Colburn School. In his teens, Heggie studied composition privately with Ernst Bacon. At UCLA, he worked closely with pianist Johana Harris and composers Paul DesMarais, Roger Bourland and David Raksin. Prior to composing Dead Man Walking, he was mentored by his friend Carlisle Floyd. Heggie dedicated the score of Moby-Dick to one of the most inspiring heroes of the American theater, Stephen Sondheim.
Jake Heggie has collaborated as composer and pianist with some of the world’s most loved singers, including sopranos Kiri Te Kanawa, Renée Fleming, Ailyn Pérez, Heidi Stober, Golda Schultz, Karen Slack, Talise Trevigne, Ann Moss, Caitlin Lynch and Lisa Delan; mezzo-sopranos Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Frederica von Stade, Jamie Barton, J’Nai Bridges, Suzanne Mentzer, Joyce Castle, Elise Quagliata, Maria Zifchak, Catherine Cook and Sasha Cooke; Broadway stars Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald; tenors Ben Heppner, William Burden, Stephen Costello, Jay Hunter Morris, Paul Groves, Nick Phan and Jonathan Blalock; baritones Keith Phares, Joshua Hopkins, Morgan Smith, Rod Gilfry, Bryn Terfel and Michael Mayes. He has also worked closely with extraordinary instrumentalists such as flutists Carol Wincenc and Lorna McGhee; violinists Daniel Hope, Leila Josefowicz, Aloysia Friedmann and Dawn Harms; cellists Matt Haimowitz, Emil Miland and Anne Martindale-Williams; pianists Jon Kimura Parker and Gustavo Romero; as well as the Miró Quartet, Brentano String Quartet and the Alexander String Quartet. Directors who have championed his work include Leonard Foglia, Joe Mantello, Francesca Zambello and Jack O’Brien. All of Heggie’s major opera premieres have been led by Patrick Summers; he has also worked closely with conductors John DeMain, Joseph Mechavich and Nicole Paiement.
Jake Heggie lives in San Francisco with his husband, Curt Branom. jakeheggie.com
Mr. Scheer’s work is noted for its scope and versatility. With the composer Jake Heggie, he has collaborated on many projects, including the critically acclaimed 2010 Dallas Opera world premiere, Moby-Dick, starring Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab; Three Decembers (Houston Grand Opera), which starred Frederica von Stade; and the lyric drama To Hell and Back (Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra), which featured Patti LuPone. Other works by Scheer and Heggie include Camille Claudel: Into the fire, a song cycle premiered by Joyce di Donato and the Alexander String Quartet. Mr. Scheer worked as librettist with Tobias Picker on An American Tragedy, which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 2005 and on Therese Raquin which was produced by the Dallas Opera in 2001. Other collaborations include the lyrics for Wynton Marsalis’s It Never Goes Away, featured in Mr. Marsalis’s work Congo Square. With the composer Steven Stucky, Mr. Scheer wrote the oratorio August 4, 1964, for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The work was nominated for a Grammy in 2012 for best classical composition. In 2015, Mr. Scheer collaborated with Joby Talbot on the opera Everest, based on the doomed 1996 Everest expedition. With Jennifer Higdon, Mr. Scheer wrote an operatic adaptation of Cold Mountain, which premiered in the summer of 2015 at the Santa Fe Opera. This work won the International Opera award, presented in London, for the best World premiere in 2015. Recently, along with Ms. Higdon, Mr. Scheer was nominated for a Grammy for his work on Cold Mountain for best classical composition. In December of 2016 Mr. Scheer and Jake Heggie premiered an operatic adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life for the Houston Grand Opera. Also a composer in his own right, Mr. Scheer has written a number of songs for singers such as Renée Fleming, Sylvia McNair, Stephanie Blythe, Jennifer Larmore, Denyce Graves, and Nathan Gunn. The distinguished documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns, prominently featured Mr. Scheer’s song “American Anthem” (as sung by Norah Jones) in his Emmy Award-winning World War II documentary for PBS entitled The War.