Putting multicultural arts on the map

Keith Gallasch

Dead Man Walking

Alongside its successful venture into Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and Parsifal, State Opera of South Australia continues its commitment to contemporary opera and music theatre creations (John Adams’ El Nino, Philip Glass’ Akhenaten) with the forthcoming staging of another American work, Dead Man Walking. Inspired by the film and book it was based on, the opera takes on the issue of capital punishment, a potent one in the USA with an increasing number of states rescinding the death penalty (partly a humane decision, partly a legal one driven by DNA testing revelations of innocence and threats of considerable litigation) despite their President’s commitment to it. The widely produced Dead Man Walking is accessible, emotionally intense, naturalistic opera (music by Jake Heggie and libretto by Terrence McNally) and as was so common in the 19th century, its audience will know the story from its appearance in other media. And this story is a true one. The opera makes a great companion piece to the Handel oratorio Theodora, as staged by Peter Sellars for the Glyndebourne Festival in 1996, which convincingly frames this tale of Roman persecution of Christians as an allegory for the ills of capital punishment, replete with the modern tools of execution (Channel 4/Warner Music Vision/NVC Arts VHS 0630-15481-3). As with the Wagner and the contemporary works in the company’s program, doubtless interstate opera fans will be crossing borders to see Dead Man Walking.

Dead Man Walking, State Opera South Australia, Sung in English with English surtitles, Aug 7, 9, 12, 16, 7.30pm Festival Theatre, Bookings through BASS 131 246

RealTime issue #55 June-July 2003 pg. 38

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1 June 2003
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