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MET Opera season opens with ‘Dead Man Walking’

| November 2, 2023 5:00 AM


Whitefish Theatre Co., in collaboration with the Whitefish Arts Council and the Whitefish Performing Arts Center, kicks off the 2032-2024 live streaming season of the Metropolitan Opera with Terrence McNally’s “Dead Man Walking.”

This harrowing and contemporary opera will be shown on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 10:55 a.m. at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center. Approximate run time is 3 hours and 10 minutes, including one 30-minute intermission. Tickets are sold only at the door which will open at 10:30 am. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students, paid by cash or check only. 

“Dead Man Walking,” the most widely performed new opera of the last 20 years, has its highly anticipated Met premiere. Based on Sister Helen Prejean’s memoir about her fight for the soul of a condemned murderer, “Dead Man Walking” matches the high drama of its subject with Heggie’s beautiful and poignant music and a brilliant libretto by the prolific American playwright Terrence McNally.  

It’s 1982 and Sister Helen is a nun and a teacher at her mission, Hope House, in the infamous St. Thomas housing project in New Orleans. Helen reveals to her colleagues that she has been corresponding with Joseph De Rocher, an inmate on death row. He stands trial for the grisly murders of two teenagers and has asked her to be his spiritual adviser through his execution. When she decides to accept, the sisters are shocked and warn Helen of the dangers of her position, but she is firm. When she arrives at the Louisiana State Prison, she is greeted by prison chaplain Father Grenville and Warden Benton who also criticize Sister Helen's choice to work with De Rocher, claiming that the man is unreachable and that she's in over her head. Helen responds that it is her duty to attempt to help the man. When she meets De Rocher, however, she is surprised to find that he is friendly and easy-going. When he asks her to speak at the pardon board hearing on his behalf to have his sentence commuted to life, she agrees. At the hearing, we meet De Rocher’s mother and brothers who plead to the pardon board on his behalf, inciting an outburst from one of the parents of the deceased. After the hearing, the four parents of De Rocher's victims speak angrily to his mother and to Sister Helen, accusing her of not understanding their pain and sorrow. When word finally comes from the pardon board, De Rocher has not been granted commutation. Barring intercession from the governor for clemency, he is to die for his crime. As De Rocher faces his imminent mortality, Sister Helen begins the arduous task of getting him to confess to the murders and seek forgiveness before his execution date. During his final days, the characters undergo heartbreaking decisions, sweeping character arcs, and difficult contradictions as they grapple with their own morality and capacity to forgive.  

Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin takes the podium for this landmark premiere, with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato starring as Sister Helen. The outstanding cast also features bass-baritone Ryan McKinny as the death-row inmate Joseph De Rocher, soprano Latonia Moore as Sister Rose, and legendary mezzo-soprano Susan Graham — who sang Helen Prejean in the opera’s 2000 premiere — as De Rocher’s mother. 

Food and beverages will be available for purchase during the performance. Visit www.whitefishtheatreco.org to read about the entire Met Opera Live in HD season or call 406-862-5371 for more information. Please note that this show contains adult themes and depictions of violence.




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