Dead Man Walking

Music by Jake Heggie, Libretto by Terrence McNally, Based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean, This Opera was commissioned by the San Francisco Opera


Divine Intervention

A contemporary standout. The most performed new opera of the 21st century, this heartbreaking story of grief, grace, and redemption is a modern classic. Based on Sister Helen Prejean’s memoir that inspired the Oscar-winning movie of the same name, it recounts her courageous struggle to provide spiritual guidance to a condemned Louisiana murderer in the months leading up to his execution. With a powerful libretto by four-time Tony Award® winner Terrence McNally and lyrical music by Jake Heggie—praised as one of the great living opera composers—Dead Man Walking has moved audiences worldwide since its premiere.

Preliminary runtime of 2 hours and 58 minutes, including one intermission. 

Sung in English with English captions projected above the stage.

WARNING: Dead Man Walking contains simulated cigarette smoking, gunshots, strong language, simulated nudity, and violence. Not recommended for audience members under the age of 15. Due to the graphic depiction of a sexual assault during the prologue, there will be a late seating opportunity after the first scene (approximately 7 minutes after the opera begins).


Dead Man Walking Ticket Availability
Saturday, Jan. 27 – Limited Availability
Sunday, Jan. 28 – Limited Availability
Tuesday, Jan. 30 – BEST SEATS & BEST PRICES
Thursday, Feb. 1 – Limited Availability
Saturday, Feb. 3 – Limited Availability




  • Cast & Creative Team

    Read more about the performers on the stage and the people behind the scenes.

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  • Synopsis

    In a poor New Orleans school, Sister Helen and Sister Rose teach a hymn to a group of children. Helen is distracted as she thinks about her plan to visit Angola State Penitentiary where her new pen pal, a death row inmate named Joseph de Rocher, has asked her to visit. Against Rose’s advice, Helen makes the long drive to Angola and ponders the momentous step she is taking. A motor cop stops her for speeding, but lets her off with a warning, asking her to pray for his sick mother. As she resumes her journey, she prays for guidance.

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  • Digital Program


  • Listen

    Listen to Dead Man Walking on Spotify.

  • Composer Biography

    Jake Heggie is the American composer of the acclaimed operas Dead Man Walking (libretto by Terrence McNally), Moby-Dick (libretto by Gene Scheer), It’s A Wonderful Life (Scheer), Great Scott (McNally), Three Decembers (Scheer), The End of the Affair (McDonald), Out of Darkness (Scheer), To Hell and Back (Scheer), and The Radio Hour (Scheer). He has also composed chamber, choral, and orchestral works as well as more than 250 art songs, many for today’s most loved singers, including Kiri Te Kanawa, Renée Fleming, Audra McDonald, Susan Graham, Joyce DiDonato, Jamie Barton, Sasha Cooke, Frederica von Stade, Stephen Costello, and Bryn Terfel, to name a few.

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  • Composer's Notes

    Composer Jake Heggie takes us on Dead Man Walking‘s journey from an idea to the most performed new opera of the 21st century.

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  • New Works Initiative

    A pioneering movement in new opera when it was launched in 2008, the New Works Initiative is designed to invigorate the operatic art form with an infusion of contemporary works and formalizes Minnesota Opera’s commitment to artistic growth, leadership and innovation. Its first iteration – a seven-season commitment to producing premieres and revivals of new works – funded the commissions of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning Silent Night (Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell), Doubt by Douglas J. Cuomo and librettist John Patrick Shanley in 2013, the 2015 political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate (also by Puts and Campbell), 2016’s horror masterpiece, The Shining (by Paul Moravec and Campbell), and last season’s comedy of manners, Dinner at Eight (by William Bolcom and Campbell).

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