Genevieve PM Roy
Dead Man Walking: The tale of a man’s poignant final journey
Dead Man Walking
Dead Man Walking: The tale of a man’s poignant final journey presented at Salle WILFRID-PELLETIER of La Place des Arts.
On Saturday, March 10th, 2013, The Opera of Montréal presented the first out of four representations of Dead Man Walking, a touching and emotion filled opera in two acts based on the true story of a convicted murderer on Death Row and the nun who befriends him.
Sung in English with English and French subtitles, Dead Man Walking was initially a bestselling novel written by Sister Helen Prejean which was later adapted in 1995 for the big screen starring Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn and directed by Tim Robbins. In 2000, the librettist Terrence McNally and the composer Jake Heggie adapted the novel into a momentous, almost three hour long opera that has toured the world and has known success in over 30 cities. Montreal will be hosting three more performances on the 12, 14 and 16 of March at 7:30 pm at Salle Wilfrid - Pelletier of La Place des Arts.
Except for the first few scenes in which we witness the gruesome murder scene and the introduction of Sister Helen, the stage of the performance was set mostly in the prison cell blocks. Colors were somber and props were used sparingly. With the help of good lighting, the visual focus was really on the harshness of the steel iron bars that enclose the numerous prisoners on death row.
Director Alain Gauthier did a marvelous job of telling the story of the condemned man through strong singing, music and acting. With precise and careful manipulation of the 26 cast members, he let the scenes and songs seep into the audience’s mind and allows them to form their own opinions on the death penalty; one of the most controversial subjects of our time.
The opera doesn’t feature any remarkable “stand out” arias and the entire piece could be classified as being more theatrical with operatic music and songs. The Metropolitan orchestra, under the baton of Wayne Marshall, performed well and solidly complemented the singers. Mezzo - soprano Allyson McHardy as Sister Helene Prejean and baritone Etienne Dupuis as the condemned man Joseph De Rocher, stole the spotlight with their strong portrayals of the main characters and with their moving interactions as the days, hours, and minutes ticked down to the condemned man's execution. As they sung in a mostly recitative manner, powerful emotions were unleashed and the beauty of the music and the singing blended nicely to move the narrative along.
Throughout the opera, I got the feeling that the audience could feel the inner turmoil of both Sister Helen as well as the condemned man’s fear of death as his fatalistic hour approached. With such a controversial theme, the opera could have easily taken a bitter, long and dreary turn, however there were several brilliant moments of comic relief, such as when Sister Helene received a speeding ticket or when De Rocher labelled her as a “rock and roll” nun. Altogether the opera was well structured and not overly depressing. Furthermore, the final scene in which we see the prisoner propped up on his execution bed staring up helplessly at Sister Helen’s face, left the entire audience with lasting chills...
Dead Man Walking will be presented at Salle WILFRID - PELLETIER of la Place des Arts for three more performances on the 12, 14 and 16 of March at 7:30 pm
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