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Opera Paralléle Premieres New Season with DEAD MAN WALKING This Weekend

Acclaimed contemporary opera company Opera Parallèle will open its 2015 season with the premiere of a new production of Jake Heggie's landmark work Dead Man Walking-marking the 15th anniversary of one of the most widely performed operas of the 21st century-in three performances this weekend, February 20 and 21, 2015 at 8 pm and February 22, 2015 at 2 pm at YBCA Theater in San Francisco.

Based on Sister Helen Prejean's memoir and passionate statement against capital punishment of the same title, Dead Man Walking plumbs the depths of human emotion, resilience, fortitude, hope, and redemption, making it an ideal subject for the operatic stage and for Opera Parallèle's brand of story-telling, exploring the human experience in provocative and intense stagings. The premiere will be followed by the Company taking to the road for the first time to present a concert version of Dead Man Walking at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, CA, March 7 and 8, 2015.

"What a privilege to bring back to San Francisco this masterwork," Says Artistic Director Nicole Paiement. "It is a powerful and intense work that began its world-wide success on the eve of the 21st century, opening so many eyes to a controversial and far-reaching subject. I can't think of a better artist than Jake Heggie to usher in our season of intense and rewarding music dramas based on important monuments of modern literature, and for Dead Man Walking to be the first work we will tour. It promises to be a journey of profound emotion from the depths of despair to the heights of humanity."

About the New Production of Dead Man Walking

Opera Parallèle presents the new production in signature "OP style" featuring dynamic, flexible sets, digital projections, and a high-impact performance style. OP Creative Director Brian Staufenbiel describes the production as, "dismantling an atmosphere of confinement and imbalance over the course of the story. It starts with hard-edged panels that contain disjointed bars, symbolizing the structured chaos of prison and the psyche. The use of technology helps us to enhance this powerful story, illustrating and deepening individual moments."

Original media, choreography and striking lighting and shadow effects against a monolithic stage set will underscore the intimate and controversial subject matter and intense dramatic content. The production is overseen by Creative Director Brian Staufenbiel and Artistic Director Nicole Paiement, who will conduct the performances. Staufenbiel's team of production designers will include Dave Dunning (Set Design), Matthew Antaky (Lighting Design), David Murakami (Media Design), Frédéric Boulay (Projection Design), Christine Crook (Costume Design), and Jeanna Parham (Wig/Makeup Design). The company will also collaborate in this production with ODC choreographer and Co-Artistic Director KT Nelson. The work has been newly re-orchestrated under the supervision of Jake Heggie and Nicole Paiement. The cast features Jennifer Rivera (Sister Helen Prejean), Michael Mayes (Joe DeRocher), Catherine Cook (Mrs. DeRocher), Talise Trevigne (Sister Rose), Robert Orth (Owen Hart), John Duykers (Father Grenville), plus Kristin Clayton, Philip Skinner, Michelle Rice, Joseph Meyers, Mark Hernandez, Jonathan Smucker, and members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus, a frequent OP collaborator.

Tickets for Dead Man Walking are priced at $35-135, and are available at the YBCA box office. Visit for full ticket information for all productions.

About Dead Man Walking

"It's hard to believe it has been nearly 15 years since Dead Man Walking had its world premiere," says Jake Heggie. "Since then, the piece has been heard in nearly 40 separate productions around the globe; it's been the subject of a documentary and two very starry recordings, but the opera has never returned to its birthplace. So, I am overjoyed that Opera Parallèle will bring Dead Man Walking home in what promises to be a startling, stirring, haunting new production. I am a huge fan of this brave, visionary company and have been consistently knocked out by its work. A magnificent cast has been assembled for the occasion and I'm convinced the opera audience here won't know what hit it! I can hardly wait."

Composed by Jake Heggie with libretto by Terrence McNally, Dead Man Walking was commissioned by San Francisco Opera and premiered on the War Memorial Opera House stage in 2000. Since then, it has been rendered in more than 40 productions worldwide, but the Opera Parallèle production will be the first time it has been seen in San Francisco since its premiere 15 years ago. Dead Man Walking is based on Sister Helen Prejean's 1993 memoir, which tells of her time working with death row inmates at Louisiana State Penitentiary, and of a particular relationship she developed with one of the inmates. Sister Helen's memoir was also the subject of a celebrated 1995 film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. The popularity of the opera can be credited not only to the timeless relevance of its subject and the humanity of its story, but on how successfully the composer and librettist captured the essence and impact of the story in an intense musical and dramatic setting.

Dead Man Walking Outreach Events

• In Conversation/In Performance. Dead Man Walking: Art and Social Justice

A special preview event with Sister Helen Prejean, Jake Heggie, Frederica von Stade, Nicole Paiement, Brian Staufenbiel, and cast members will be held Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 7pm at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco. This presentation is free, but tickets are required for admission, and are available at

• A staging rehearsal of the opera on Saturday, February 14, at 3:00-5:00 pm will be open to the public for a behind-the-scenes look at the process of preparing for production at First Baptist Church of San Francisco, 22 Waller St. This open rehearsal is presented as part of the company's Opera-On-Display program.

• As part of OP's Invitation-to-Opera and its multifaceted education programs, students from the greater Bay Area will be invited to a free preview performance.

About Jake Heggie

Jake Heggie is the American composer of the operas Moby-Dick, Dead Man Walking, Three Decembers, To Hell and Back, and Out of Darkness: a triptych of Holocaust stories (Another Sunrise - Farewell, Auschwitz - For a Look or a Touch). He has also composed more than 250 songs, as well as chamber, choral and orchestral works. The operas - most created with the distinguished writers Terrence McNally and Gene Scheer - have been produced extensively on five continents. Dead Man Walking (McNally) has received 40 productions since its premiere, as well as two live recordings. Moby-Dick (Scheer) was telecast in 2013 as part of Great Performances' 40th Season and was recently released on DVD (EuroArts). It is also the subject of the book Heggie & Scheer's Moby-Dick: A Grand Opera for the 21st Century (UNT Press). Heggie, a Guggenheim Fellow, has served as a mentor to Washington National Opera's American Opera Initiative for young composers and librettists for the past two seasons. Upcoming commissions include Great Scott (McNally) for The Dallas Opera, starring Joyce DiDonato; The Radio Hour (Scheer) for the John Alexander Singers; a new project for Houston Grand Opera; songs for Kiri Te Kanawa at Ravinia; and The Work at Hand, Symphonic Songs for mezzo Jamie Barton and cellist Anne Martindale-Williams, co-commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony and Carnegie Hall.

About Opera Parallèle

The award-winning Opera Parallèle develops and performs contemporary operas in a dynamic balance of known and new works, in new productions that shed light on their subject matter and engage audiences' senses and sensibilities. Opera Parallèle is the only organization in the Bay Area presenting fully cast and staged contemporary operas exclusively.

Opera Parallèle also commissions new orchestrations of contemporary grand operas, to give a sense of intimacy to its productions and to give a new life to works which might not otherwise be performed.

Artistic director Nicole Paiement founded Opera Parallèle (originally Ensemble Parallèle) to perform new music and to collaborate "in parallel" with various artists including dancers, choreographers, visual and multimedia artists. These collaborations have enriched the Company's productions and appeal to a wide-ranging audience, from seasoned opera-goers and classical music enthusiasts to contemporary art and dance-goers.
In 2007 Opera Parallèle began to focus exclusively on contemporary opera, and in February of that year the organization presented the world premiere of Lou Harrison's opera Young Caesar. More recent productions have included the California premiere of Alban Berg's Wozzeck in a chamber orchestration by composer John Rea (2010); the Bay Area premiere of Philip Glass' opera Orphée(2011); and Virgil Thompson's Four Saints in Three Acts in collaboration with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in conjunction with the international exhibition The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde. In February 2012, Opera Parallèle presented the world premiere of the chamber orchestration of John Harbison's opera The Great Gatsby. 2013/2014 brought a large array of new work, from Osvaldo Golijov's riveting opera Ainadamar, Opera Parallèle's Graphic Opera Project, Gesualdo - Prince of Madness, Leonard Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti, Adam Gorb's Anya17 and a double bill of Weill/Brecht's Mahagonny Songspiel with Poulenc/Apollinaire's Les mamelles de Tirésias.

Since it was founded, Opera Parallèle has presented 134 performances including 30 world premieres, released 14 recordings, and commissioned 20 new works; and has performed in North America, Australia, and Asia.

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