|DEAD MAN WALKING|
by Willard Manus
DEAD MAN WALKING...AND SINGING
Linda Schaller's one-hour television documentary AND THEN ONE NIGHT:
THE MAKING OF DEAD MAN WALKING is a must-see for opera fans, especially those planning to attend Opera Pacific's production of DEAD MAN WALKING at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, CA. April 16-21. The TV show ran over PBS in January but will be repeated in
months to come. Check your local listings for broadcast time.
Based on the best-selling book by Sister Helen Prejean with music by Jake Heggie and book by Terrence McNally, DEAD MAN WALKING had its world
premiere in San Francisco three years ago and was hailed as a worthy and
powerful new American opera. Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon starred in
a film version of the same book several seasons ago.
The issue at stake in DEAD MAN WALKING is capital punishment, whether
the state is justified in putting a prisoner to death, even one who has
committed a bloody and brutal murder (and who might even have become
genuinely repentant and rehabilitated while incarcerated). Narrated by
Angela Bassett, the documentary interviews the creative team who put the
San Francisco Opera production together, including former director Lotfi
Mansour, director Joe Mantello, conductor Patrick Sommers and singer
Frederica von Stade (who will reprise her role as Mrs DeRocher in Costa
Also interviewed were the parents or siblings of people who were the victims of heinous murders and who believe, strongly, that the death penalty is not only justified but imperative for closure. Backing them up was James Anderson, assistant district attorney of Alameda County, who has prosecuted many killers and believes we should not have qualms about putting them to death for their evil crimes. Actor Mike Farrell of Death Penalty Focus took the opposing position, which he defended eloquently. He was joined in this by Sister Prejean herself.
The argument went back and forth, with feelings running high on both sides. Interspersed were shots of the making of the opera: rehearsals, rewrites, vocal challenges, directorial discussions. There were some snippets from the production as well, with von Stade and other principal singers (Susan Graham and John Packard) in full voice. Packard will be featured in the Opera Pacific production, joined by Kristin Jepson and Theodora Hanslowe (as Sister Prejean), Kelly Anderson and Donna Volkwijn. John DeMain and Leonard Foglia conduct and direct, respectively.
For tickets and information call Opera Pacific at (800) 34- OPERA