“Ms. DiDonato, a Kansan embraced by Houston audiences as a hometown heroine, first sang the role of Sister Helen at New York City Opera, whose keen, effective Leonard Foglia production was staged here. On Feb. 2 her extraordinary mix of vibrancy, gravity and exacting nuance amounted to a portrayal that easily ranked with her finest work”.

~ Steve Smith, NY TIMES February 2011

“Absolute in its skill and devastating in its power, Houston Grand Opera’s Dead Man Walking more than lives up to the reputation that this uncompromising and thoroughly engrossing work has acquired since its world premiere at San Francisco Opera a decade ago.

Joyce DiDonato returns to her NYCO role as Sister Helen and her life-changing portrayal proves an absolute revelation. Any Dead Man Walking depends first and foremost on the effectiveness of its Sister Helen. This production is blessed with DiDonato, who is nothing short of magnificent. Her vocalizing is extraordinary throughout, whether for pitch, power, clarity or miraculously sustaining a note. She acts with flame-like intensity, her doubt and confusion every bit as real as her steely resolve to meet her responsibility at whatever personal cost. DiDonato’s Sister Helen is truly a light in a dark place.

However great an operatic and theatrical experience, Dead Man Walking makes its greatest impact as a purely human one.”

~ Everett Evans, Houston Chronicle January, 2011

With Frederica von Stade as Joe's Mother

“I have been so deeply affected by Houston Grand Opera’s stunning production of Dead Man Walking … I am barely able to wrap my mind around the words necessary to describe my experience.

Sister Helen is the opera’s charismatic center, on stage for nearly the entire 2 acts. Mezzo Joyce DiDonato positively blazes with an intense tour de force performance, her lovely timbre full of emotion as she struggles with a huge array of feelings.

Dead Man Walking is not to be missed … you will better appreciate and be grateful for your life upon viewing this passionate opera about life and death and the struggles we will all face when we finally look death in the face.”

~ Buzz Bell, Houston Chronicle Commons January 2011

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“Joyce DiDonato, who sang the lead role of Sister Helen Prejean at New York City Opera, gives a thrilling interpretation here in Houston. She is the coordinating factor in each in every scene, and she met the various vocal demands with the utmost skill and sophistication. Perhaps it was the presence of the actual Sister Helen Prejean in the audience that gave DiDonato that extra bit of inspiration. Her final unaccompanied He Will Gather Us Around is a great moment in the company’s history. When Sister Prejean took her curtain call, she beamed, obviously thrilled with the performance.”

~ Culturemap Houston Jan 2011

With Philip Cutlip as Joseph de Rocher, at the moment of confession