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Dead Man
Walking

Johan Reuter i rollen som Joseph De Rocher Johan Reuter i rollen som Joseph De Rocher / Photo: Miklos Szabo
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Running
18. September–10. October
SCENE
Main Stage
Duration
3 h 15 min / 1 break

CANCELLED:

All performances of Dean Man Walking is unfortunately cancelled due to the ongoing strike in the cultural sector. Ticket holders will be contacted for refunds.

A blockbuster success about the death penalty and forgiveness

Dead Man Walking is about a close friendship that develops between a nun and a convicted killer on death row. The story originates from the Oscar-winning film of the same name and is based on the personal experiences of Sister Helen. The opera has enjoyed success around the world – and is now finally coming to Norway!

We find ourselves in Louisiana in the 1980s. Two teenagers are brutally assaulted. The boy is killed by a shot to the back of the head and the girl is raped before being stabbed to death.

A few years later, Sister Helen is contacted by Joseph De Rocher, an inmate at a maximum-security prison in the U.S. who has been sentenced to death for the murders of the two teenagers, but claims he is innocent and asks the nun to act as his adviser. Sister Helen and the inmate develop a strong friendship, but she meets with considerable opposition – from her colleagues, the prison priest and the parents of the murdered teenagers. How can she possibly interact with such a cruel killer?

A nun’s battle against the death penalty

The opera is based on the book Dead Man Walking, written by the American nun Helen Prejean. It deals with her work among death-row inmates and her battle against the death penalty in the United States. The book was made into a movie in 1995, starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.

The most frequently performed opera from the 21st century
Jake Heggie is one of North America’s most popular composers. Dead Man Walking was his operatic debut and attracted enormous attention when it was first performed in San Francisco in 2000. It has since been performed in a range of productions across the globe.
The world’s most frequently performed opera from the 21st century is now finally coming to Norway!

Catchy music

The music is grandiose, melodic and almost cinematic. It supports the intense human drama that is at the heart of the opera, featuring elements of American song traditions like gospel, jazz and spirituals.

Age recommendation: The opera opens with a powerful scene depicting sexual violence. It is therefore not recommended for children under the age of 16 years.

Production borrowed from The Royal Danish Theatre, Copenhagen

Included in Ultima 2021

Artistic team and cast

  • Music
    Jake Heggie
  • Libretto
    Terrence McNally, based on Sister Helen Prejean's book
  • Conductor
    Karen Kamensek
  • Director
    Orpha Phelan
  • Set design and costumes
    Nicky Shaw
  • Lighting design
    Mark Jonathan
  • Choreography
    Lynne Hockney
  • Participants
    Children's Chorus, Opera Chorus, Opera Orchestra
Roles
    • Søster Helen Prejean
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Joseph de Rocher, domfelt morder
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Fru Patrick de Rocher, hans mor
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Hennes 19 år gamle sønn
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Hennes 14 år gamle sønn
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Søster Rose
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Howard Boucher, den drepte guttens far
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Jade Boucher, den drepte guttens mor
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Owen Hart, den drepte jentas far
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Kitty Hart, den drepte jentas mor
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Fader Grenville
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • George Benton, fengselsdirektør
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Første fengselsbetjent/ Politimann på motorsykkel
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Andre fengselsbetjent
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Søster Lilliane
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Søster Catherine
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • En mor
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Den første av fem fanger
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Den andre av fem fanger
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Den tredje av fem fanger
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Den fjerde av fem fanger
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Den femte av fem fanger
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Fru Charlton
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
    • Stemmen fra en fange
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00
  • Dead Man Walking
    • Dirigent
      • Karen Kamensek
        • 18. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 21. Sep 2021 19:00
        • 25. Sep 2021 18:00
        • 1. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 3. Oct 2021 18:00
        • 8. Oct 2021 19:00
        • 10. Oct 2021 18:00

Synopsis

Prologue

Two teenagers are attacked by two men in a wood. The boy is shot in the head and the girl is raped before she is brutally stabbed to death.

Act I

The nun Sister Helen tells her colleague, Sister Rose, that she is going to visit Joseph De Rocher, a prisoner on Death Row, convicted of murdering the two teenagers. Sister Rose tries to talk Sister Helen out of going, but to no avail.

At the prison, Father Grenville tries to dissuade her from meeting Joseph, but she insists that it is her duty to be there for him. The warden warns her that as Joseph’s spiritual advisor, she will be expected to be present at his execution.

At their first meeting, Joseph insists on his innocence and asks Sister Helen

to accompany his mother to a meeting with the pardon board. After the meeting, the parents of the murdered teenagers angrily confront Sister Helen for helping the murderer and not them.

Joseph reacts angrily when hearing that his appeal has been denied and Sister Helen once again tries to convince him to confess. As she leaves him in his cell, she starts hallucinating from dehydration.

Act II

A prison guard informs Joseph that his execution is set for August 4.

Sister Helen wakes from a nightmare and Sister Rose tries to persuade her to stop seeing Joseph. When Sister Helen refuses, they pray for the strength to forgive him.

On the day of execution, Joseph still refuses to confess and be at peace with his deeds, before saying goodbye to his mother and younger brothers.

Sister Helen meets the families of the teenagers, who are angry that Joseph still refuses to confess. Owen Hart, the father of the murdered girl, however, admits to Sister Helen that he is no longer sure that their anger is doing them any good.

As they meet a final time, Joseph tells Sister Helen the truth but is terrified that she will refuse to stay with him. Sister Helen gives him her forgiveness and promises that she will be there for him at the moment of death.

Asked if he has any final words, Joseph asks the parents of the teenagers for their forgiveness.

Interview with the director

Making a man out of a murderer

A conversation with director Orpha Phelan about her work with Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking. 

By dramaturg Louise Nabe, Royal Danish Theatre

What were your first thoughts upon starting your work with Jake Heggie’s modern classic Dead Man Walking? 

I was bowled over by the unashamed directness of the music, which cut straight to my heart. It was exciting to imagine most of the audience engaging in the same way and being gripped immediately. 

But perhaps I was struck most by seeing the story from several different perspectives: We meet the victims. We witness their families’ grief. We meet a mother whose son will be executed. We follow Sister Helen as she fights for a murderer’s life yet struggles to forgive him. Moreover, some of us may possibly fall a little in love with the murderer himself. Being asked to direct a piece like this is a real gift. 

How do you prepare for the task of telling a story like this? It is after all not fiction, but based on a very real situation in the memoirs of the real-life Sister Helen and her work with an actual inmate on Death Row – something quite different from for example La bohème or The Tales of Hoffmann, which you have also worked with in recent years. 

In some ways, I feel that I’ve been preparing for Dead Man Walking my whole life. I was brought up in Catholic Ireland and so I was immediately able to grasp all of the religious references. So it was natural for me to find myself enlisting the help of Father Robert, a local priest where I now live in London, who is also the chaplain at Wormwood Scrubs Prison – one of the tougher prisons in London. He kindly offered to take my designer, Nicky Shaw, and me on a tour of the prison and this was really where our journey began. 

The first thing that struck me was a sign posted up in the prison grounds: Beware - Feral Cats. Apparently, the cats were keeping the rat infestation at bay - helped, I was told, by the resident cannibal who lured the rats into his cell and ate them alive. This was certainly an awakening for me! 

Many things will remain with me from that trip where we walked for miles through endless corridors, interrupted only by locked doors. But the thing that struck me most was not the bright lights or the rancid smells, but the only very occasional sense of hope in the midst of the institutionalization and despair. 

I have always thought it wrong to kill another human being, for any reason. Before starting work on Dead Man Walking, in my naivety, I thought that most people felt the same way as me. In my research, however, I have come across many articulate and persuasive people – some relations of victims, some in law reinforcement, some God-fearing Christians, some ‘normal’ citizens – who believe in an eye for an eye. The death penalty is imposed in 31 states in the USA – of which, however, four have it up for review by demand from their governors – 2905 people were on Death Row as of the last statistic from 2016, and 385 have been executed in the past ten years. So yes, many people feel very differently indeed. 

Given the experiences you have had first in preparing for this opera and while working on the actual staging of it, what would you like the audience to experience and take with them from their meeting with Dead Man Walking?

Perhaps one of the most interesting journeys we go on during Dead Man Walking is our own: As we come to empathize with the families of the victims, I wonder how many in the audience feel differently towards Joseph when he admits his guilt. Is our opinion of the death penalty, which we imagine to be unshakable, consistent to the very end? I can say that I have personally struggled with my ideals. 

Prisons institutionalize and dehumanize; it is easier to kill people who we think of as non-humans. I think that the opera restores humanity to a section of society, which has had its humanity torn away. We are all forced to address the question: Is it ever right to kill another human being? 

If we leave, engaged with that question, that can only be a good thing.

 

 

Multimedia

Price
100 –800 kr
Language
Engelsk
Subtitles
Norsk og engelsk
  • Saturday 25. September
    18:00 / Main Stage
    Cancelled
  • Friday 1. October
    19:00 / Main Stage
    Cancelled
  • Sunday 3. October
    18:00 / Main Stage
    Cancelled
  • Friday 8. October
    19:00 / Main Stage
    Cancelled
  • Sunday 10. October
    18:00 / Main Stage
    Cancelled