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Chicago-Area Premiere of ‘Dead Man Walking’

Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally’s opera to be fully staged at Northwestern

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A vocal master class led by bass-baritone Eric Owens -- who has earned international acclaim as both an esteemed interpreter of classic works and a champion of new music -- and the Chicago-area premiere of Jake Heggie’s fully-staged opera, “Dead Man Walking,” are among two opera events that will take place at Northwestern University this winter.

Presented by the University’s Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, the events will be held on the University’s Evanston campus at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, and Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson Street, as noted.

The Bienen School of Music’s Winter 2015 opera events include:


• Continuing the inaugural season of the Robert M. and Maya L. Tichio Vocal Master Class Series, bass-baritone Eric Owens will lead a vocal master class at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 2, at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. Owens studied voice while an undergraduate at Temple University and later as a graduate student at the Curtis Institute of Music. His career highlights include “Aida” at Houston Grand Opera, his San Francisco Opera debut in “Otello” and his Covent Garden debut in “Norma.” Owens’ 2014–15 season engagements include Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” at the Lucerne Festival, “Porgy and Bess” at Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he is currently serving as community ambassador, and his debut in the title role of “Der fliegende Holländer” with the Washington National Opera. Tickets for the master class are $10 for the general public and $5 for students with IDs.


Northwestern University Opera Theater will present the fully-staged Chicago-area premiere of “Dead Man Walking,” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20; 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26; and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, at Cahn Auditorium. Since its San Francisco Opera premiere in 2000, “Dead Man Walking” has received more than 40 productions worldwide. With music by Jake Heggie and a libretto by Terrence McNally, and based on the book of the same name by Sister Helen Prejean, the opera tells the story of a nun’s journey as spiritual advisor to Joseph De Rocher, a convicted murderer on death row at Louisiana’s Angola State Prison. This powerful tale of suffering and redemption, from its wrenching beginning to its emotionally charged conclusion, leaves a lasting impression on all who encounter it. (Parental advisory: This performance contains adult situations, graphic violence and explicit language.)


Michael M. Ehrman, artist in residence and director of opera at Northwestern University, will direct two casts in this student production. Ehrman has extensive experience as both an opera director and educator. Among his credits are critically-acclaimed productions at the Houston Grand Opera, Greater Miami Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Minnesota Opera, Chautauqua Opera and Chicago Opera Theater. Ehrman has staged more than 20 productions for Central City Opera, including the 50th anniversary production of the “Ballad of Baby Doe” and the world premiere of Henry Mollicone’s “Gabriel’s Daughter,” as well as “Noye’s Fludde” by Benjamin Britten for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He also directed “The Magic Flute” with James Conlon in 2012 for the Ravinia Festival. Most recently, he staged his 19th production of Puccini's "La bohème" for the National Symphony of the Dominican Republic in Santo Domingo. In summer 2015, Ehrman continues his new position as director of the prestigious Young Artist Program at Central City in Colorado.


Michael Sakir, selected by Jake Heggie, conducts the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra for this production. In March 2013, Sakir conducted the New England premiere of “Dead Man Walking,” presented by the Boston Opera Collaborative. He has held chorus master, assistant conductor and coach positions for more than two dozen productions with Florida Grand Opera, Sarasota Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Pensacola Opera and Opera Boston. An advocate for new music, he has collaborated with composers Heggie, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, John Harbison and others.


Donald Nally, Bienen School professor and director of choral organizations, leads the University Chorale as chorus master. Nally is conductor of The Crossing, the award-winning professional chamber choir in Philadelphia focused on new music. He also is chorus master of The Chicago Bach Project, an annual performance of the Bach masterworks. Nally has served in many prestigious international positions: as chorus master at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Welsh National Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and for many seasons at the Spoleto Festival in Italy. Under his direction, the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia won the 2002 Margaret Hillis National Award for Excellence in Choral Music.


Tickets for the Bienen School’s production of “Dead Man Walking” are $18 for the general public and $8 for students with valid IDs. For more information, call the Bienen School of Music Concert Management Office at 847-491-5441 or visit To order tickets, call the Bienen School Ticket Office at 847-467-4000 or visit


Northwestern’s Arts Circle Drive has reopened for vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The road, drive-up handicap access to Arts Circle Drive venues, the pedestrian path at the lakefront and all sidewalks are now open for public use. New improvements to the South Beach Garage have also eliminated the need to use the stairways since both levels of the two-story parking structure are now accessible to persons with disabilities for easy access to Bienen School of Music venues. Additional parking is also available in the new Segal Visitors Center at 1841 Sheridan Road. For more information, call (847) 491-5441 or visit

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