Dead Man Walking

Jake Heggie, Composer

Terrence McNally, Libretto


Joyce DiDonato, Philip Cutlip, Frederica von Stade

Patric Summers, Conductor

The recording is sensational. Heggie’s direct style, harking back to Gershwin and Bernstein, has always attracted star singers, and in one of her most subtly characterised performances to date, Joyce DiDonato plays Prejean alongside Philip Cutlip’s formidable De Rocher. Frederica von Stade is devastating as De Rocher’s desperate mother, while Patrick Summers’ conducting is exceptional in its passion and commitment.” ~ Tim Ashley The Guardian May 2012

“[M]ezzo Joyce DiDonato […] leaves an indelible stamp on the role. Di Donato is, as her fans know, a superb singer and one of opera’s leading lights. Here she proves herself to be an actress of equal power and presence.

The libretto by Terrence McNally, based on Prejean’s novel, shines light on the characters’ emotional journeys, from the unspeakable and insolvable grief imposed on the families of Joseph’s victims, to Sister Helen’s own cascade of inner struggles and spiritual reckonings.

Whether you have seen a staged production of Dead Man Walking or not — and no matter where you find yourself on the spectrum of religious or political belief — this recording will speak to you.” ~ Anastasia Tsioulcas NPR July 2012

“I would guess in fact that a reason Dead Man Walking has found such success is the appeal the role holds for singers such as Joyce DiDonato, the protagonist on this recording. To put it bluntly, Sr. Helen is a diva. I mean in no way to suggest that the nun – either the actual person or her operatic incarnation – is vain or capricious; on the contrary, as presented here, she is a woman of rare compassion. But her quest toward the understanding of the nature of divine forgiveness is like that of a great singer working to achieve musical transcendence. DiDonato succeeds here not just because she is a wonderful singer but because of the kind of singer she is – one driven to create meaning through sound. The intense focus of DiDonato’s art becomes a correlative for Sr. Helen’s religious calling.” ~ Fred Cohn Opera News  November 2012

“New Dead Man Walking Sings With Eloquence”

“As Sister Helen, the wonderful mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato starts somewhat cool, but soon ratchets up intensity. Her passion becomes deeply moving, with several perfectly placed, magnificent high notes making their mark.

Do not be afraid of the horror of Dead Man Walking. It is a true work of art, transformative in its impact and it will resound in your heart and psyche long after Tosca has jumped from the parapet.”  ~ Jason Victor Serinus San Francisco Classical Voice April 2012

“DiDonato first sang DMW‘s central role of Sister Helen Prejean at New York City Opera in 2002 and now emerges as the single finest element in a second sound-only recording (Virgin Classics) of live performances of a Houston Grand Opera production of 2011. Because she can do so much with a single phrase, we hear her character’s own spiritual progress through the agonizing process of being a killer’s spiritual advisor. But by the time she sings, “I want the last thing you see in this world to be a face of love. I will be the face of love for you,” the transformation is real, and felt.”  ~ Tim Pfaff The Bay Area Reporter July 2012

Album info

Release date: April 24, 2012
Number of Discs: 2
Format: Live
Label: Erato