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Dead Man Walking

an opera by Jake Heggie & Terrence McNally • Based on the novel by Sister Helen Prejean

University Opera Theatre

University Symphony Orchestra

November 13-16, 2014 • Power Center

Buy tickets now


The Story: Based on the prize-winning book by Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, Dead Man Walking tells the true story of her experience as a spiritual advisor to a convict on Louisiana’s death row. Through his appeals for pardon to the inevitable final execution, Sister Helen stands by Joe de Rocher despite her internal struggle to reconcile her faith in his humanity with the heinousness of his crimes. Her unpopular and controversial choice to attempt to save his soul leads to confrontations with those closely affected by his actions. A powerful tale of compassion and the effect of crime on the families of both the victim and perpetrator, Dead Man Walking is both inspirational and devastating.


Background: Premiered by the San Francisco Opera in 2000, Dead Man Walking is the first opera by composer Jake Heggie in collaboration with award-winning playwright Terrence McNally (Master Class, Love! Valor! Compassion!). Heggie initially garnered a following by artists such as Frederica von Stade for his songs that flatter the voice. His latest full-length opera Moby Dick premiered at Dallas Opera in 2010. Dead Man Walking features a melodic and dramatic score that brilliantly echoes the emotional journeys of its main characters. The San Francisco Chronicle declared, “[Dead Man Walking] must be reckoned something of a masterpiece — a gripping, enormously skilled marriage of words and music to tell a story of love, suffering, and spiritual redemption.”

This opera contains violence and profanity.


Ancilliary Events

Sister Helen PrejeanIn collaboration with Dead Man Walking, the School of Music, Theatre & Dance welcomes Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, for two events:

Sally Fleming Master Class
“Dead Man Walking, the Journey Continues” 
Thursday, November 13 at 3 PM
Rackham Auditorium - Free & open to the public


Post-Show Discussion following the Thursday 7:30 PM evening performance of Dead Man Walking


Marking Time

Curated exhibit of art by current & former incarcerated individuals

U-M Prison Creative Arts Project

Power Center Lobby, November 2014



Dead Man Walking poster, design courtesy Boston Opera Collabroative

design courtesy Boston Opera Collabroative

Artistic Staff

Director Kay Walker Castaldo
Conductor Jerome Shannon
Scenic Designer Gary Decker
Costume Designer Suzanne Young
Lighting Designer Rob Murphy
Sound Designer Henry Reynolds
Wig Designer Alyssa Battersby
Stage Manager Brett Finley




Thursday/Saturday Cast


Friday/Sunday Cast


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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower