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Opera in two acts

Music by Jake Heggie (1961)
Libretto by Terrence McNally, after the novel of the same name (1995) of Sister Helen Prejean

Premiered at the War Memorial Opera House of San Francisco on 7 October 2000
Premiere at the Teatro Real
Production by the Lyric Opera of Chicago

Principal Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Real
(Coro Intermezzo / Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid)
Pequeños Cantores de la ORCAM

Starting Point

A man who has been accused of a monstrous crime and is condemned to death row comes face to face with a nun who fiercely defends the dignity of every individual without exception. In Sister Helen Prejean and her story of redemption, composer Jake Heggie found the perfect material to compose an American opera with universal resonance. His musical language is constructed on a base of melodic motifs and rhythms which steadily increase in intensity. Overcome with physical and emotional exhaustion, these peak and there is a steady decrescendo. The music and story put us to the test, we become responsible for making our own conclusions and questioning our own preconceptions.

Prejean could be any one of us, for that reason it is easy to identify with her crusade. Through her eyes, we discover the characters of this story: from the assassin himself, to his family, and that of the victim. What begins as a story with a clear moral message becomes a disturbing universe of grey-nuanced tonalities: all the characters of the opera are ordinary people who have been pushed to the limit. In fact, they are not very different from ourselves. And in that sense, we ask the question: what would we have done in the same circumstances? 

Production Team & Cast

  • Musical director: Mark Wigglesworth
  • Stage director: Leonard Foglia
  • Set designer: Michael McGarty
  • Costume designer: Jess Goldstein
  • Lighting designer: Brian Nason
  • Video: Elaine McCarthy
  • Chorus Master: Andrés Máspero
  • Children's Chorus Conductor: Ana González
· - ·
  • Sister Helen: Joyce DiDonato
  • Joseph DeRocher: Michael Mayes
  • Mrs. DeRocher: Maria Zifchak
  • Sister Rose: Measha Brueggergosman
  • George Benton: Damián del Castillo
  • Father Grenville: Roger Padullés
  • Kitty Hart: María Hinojosa
  • Owen Hart: Toni Marsol
  • Jade Boucher: Lucy Schaufer
  • Howard Boucher: Vicenç Esteve
  • A Motor Cop: Enric Martínez-Castignani
  • Sister Catherine: Celia Alcedo
  • Sister Lillianne: Marifé Nogales
  • First Prison Guard: Enric Martínez-Castignani
  • Second Prison Guard: Tomeu Bibiloni

Performance Dates

  • 26 JAN (F) 20:00h
    Turn Première
  • 29 JAN (M) 20:00h
    Turn A
  • 31 JAN (W) 20:00h
    Turn B
  • 3 FEB (S) 20:00h
    Turn G
  • 6 FEB (T) 20:00h
    Turn D
  • 9 FEB (F) 20:00h
    Turn C
  • Place: Main Auditorium