On Wednesday, August 6, CNN reporter Moni Basu posted the online article “Dead Man Walking” nun: ‘Botched’ executions unmask a botched system.” The article refers to the experiences of Sister Helen Prejean, a Congregation of St. Joseph nun, who first wrote a groundbreaking, bestselling novel that went on to become the basis for the motion picture Dead Man Walking (1995) starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.
Both the novel and the film tell of a Catholic nun’s stormy spiritual journey, a murderer on death row, the victims of his unthinkable actions, and society at large. In fact, the debate surrounding the works’ main theme is in the news in Ohio and elsewhere in the nation and speaks to our collective view on justice, compassion, the American legal system, and our role as citizens. Ministering to inmates on death row led to Sister Helen Prejean becoming a staunch advocate of abolishing the death penalty and developing a second, unwavering belief: America’s death penalty process doesn’t work.
Composer Jake Heggie premiered the opera Dead Man Walking, his first opera, with a libretto by Terrence McNally; it premiered on October 7, 2000 at the War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco Opera. In 2001, Cincinnati Opera commissioned a second production of Dead Man Walking. On Friday, February 27 and Sunday March 1, 2015, Dayton Opera will present Dead Man Walking, making Dead Man Walking only the second presentation of the opera in the Midwest.
Dead Man Walking taps into one of the core issues of our day and the whirlwind of emotions that surround it. Whether you’ve thought about the death penalty or not, this opera is sure to open a path to your heart, soul, and mind. After all, isn’t that is what great art is all about?