Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato first did Dead Man Walking, the operatic version of the story about Sister Prejean, who comes to know and counsel a prisoner on death row, eight years ago with the New York City Opera. It shattered me then. It is everything that theater should be. It is the most intimate of operas; two people take a spiritual journey together. It has beautiful -music.
With music by Jake Heggie and a libretto by Terrence McNally based on Sister Prejeans own account, the opera is sung in English with English subtitles. Unlike the 1995 film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, there is no doubt that prisoner Joseph De Rocher is guilty the opera starts with him committing the murder. Jake and Terrence chose very consciously to start the opera with the crime. They wanted it to be absolutely clear that hes guilty, said DiDonato.
Despite the challenges of being onstage through almost all of the production, DiDonato said, she knew she would want to return to singing in the opera again. The Houston performance also includes mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, an opera legend, making her farewell to the opera stage as De Rochers mother.
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Sister Prejean will be in Houston during the operas run. 7:30 p.m. January 22 and 29, February 2 and 4; and 2 p.m. February 6. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-228-6737 or visit www.houstongrandopera.org/deadmanwalking. $24 to $317.
Sat., Jan. 22, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., Feb. 2, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 4, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 6, 2 p.m., 2011