Jake Heggie on Dead Man Walking

Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking opens this coming Saturday night at the Kennedy Center in a new production by Washington National Opera. Two years ago, just before the opera returned to San Francisco fifteen years after its world premiere, I talked with Heggie at length about how he feels about the work now, and much more during an hour-long conversation. 

On Dead Man Walking, he said: 

I sit back in wonder that I had the nerve to write a piece of that scale and that size as my first opera. When I was doing it made total sense. I had the full support of the company and Terrence and it all felt very exciting and fresh and doable. Now I sort of sit back and think how did I have the nerve to take on this massive story with this massive cast and chorus, and orchestra? And now I understand why people were dubious. But I just had this sort of naïve optimism at that point and I think I still do with every project I take on– I feel like I’m climbing another mountain, but what an exciting mountain to climb. I do appreciate it [Dead Man Walking] because I think it works. It’s one of those things where you can’t say exactly which element is the reason that makes it work, but I think it’s a combination of things: it’s got a brilliant libretto; it’s brilliantly paced in terms of characters and their introductions and development, when they appear, when they disappear, etcetera; how people interact, and I think I found the right musical world for all of those characters to live in and to emerge within. You can’t say there’s one particular reason or not– it just seems to work. I’ve seen it now all over the world and it just works for audiences everywhere, I think mostly because we focused on the big human drama. We weren’t making a political statement or trying to persuade people to feel or think one way or the other. We were just drawing them into a story and telling them a fascinating American human drama.

Read the entire interview here.

lf you liked this, like A Beast in a Jungle on Facebook for more.