An extraordinary event is about to take place in the Mead Theater of the Schuster Center: the first Midwest production in a decade of the gripping contemporary opera, Dead Man Walking. Composed by Jake Heggie to a libretto by Terrence McNally, Dead Man Walking does not shrink from asking the most difficult questions. Is all life precious? Even the life of a murderer?
Perhaps you’ve read the 1993 book that inspired the opera, a true autobiographical account by Sister Helen Prejean, a Roman Catholic nun from New Orleans and a member of the Congregation of Saint Joseph. In her narrative, she describes the transformative events leading to her becoming a leading advocate for the abolition of capital punishment. Prejean begins her unexpected spiritual journey by honoring the request of an acquaintance to correspond with two convicted murderers. She ultimately becomes their spiritual advisor, remaining in contact with them until the very end – their scheduled executions. Her experience with the prison and justice system as well as her own spiritual journey inspired the writing of her first book.
It is that final walk to execution that provides the title: Dead Man Walking. In American prisons it was once traditional for the guards to call out the warning, “Dead man walking. Dead man walking now,” as they escorted a condemned prisoner down the hallway. As Jake Heggie said during one of his recent visits to the University of Dayton, “Speaking with her on the phone that first time, I quickly realized that
Sister Helen is a down-to-earth person who doesn’t fear to walk in the dark places.”
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From cell to stage | Dayton City Paper.
The Dayton Opera will perform Dead Man Walking at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27 and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 1, 2015. Tickets begin at $38 for adults and $24 for students; $15 student rush tickets may be available the day of the performance. There will be an Opera Preludes pre-performance talk by Dr. Sam Dorf one hour before each performance. This opera is for mature audiences. For tickets or more information, please call 888.228.3630 or visit daytonperformingarts.org.