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Dead Man Walking

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Dead Man Walking
Jake Heggie

New production 


Libretto: Terrence McNally

Based on the novel by sister Helen Prejean


The most performed American opera in the repertoire – the mesmerizing story of an American nun who tries to comfort a convicted murderer on his way to death row. An operatic version to the internationally powerful movie.



Conductor Patrick Summers 
Director Tomer Zvulun
Associate Director Brenna Corner 
Set Designer Keith Brumley 
Costume Designer Joanna Schmink 
Lighting Designer Don Darnutzer 

Sister Helen Prejean Maya Lahyani
Joseph de Rocher Michael Mayes 
Mrs. De Rocher Maria Zifchak 
Sister Rose Tali Ketsef
Father Grenville Michael Bracegirdle
George Benton Vladimir Braun
Kitty Hart Anastasia Klevan
Owen Hart Oded Reich
Jade Boucher Shay Bloch
Howard Boucher Anthony Webb
A Motor Cop Yair Polishook
First Prison Guard Yair Polishook
Second Prison Gaurd Pnini Leon Grubner
Sister Catherine Shira Cohen
Sister Lillianne Nour Darwish
Mrs. Charlton Yuli Rorman
A mother Tom Ben Ishai
A paralegal Tom Cohen 
Nurse Shaked Strul
Older Brother Oshri Segev
Yonger Brother Noam Heinz Lowenstein
Officer Pnini Leon Grubner
First Prisoner Doron Florentin
Second Prisoner Liran Kopel
Third Prisoner Joshua Rona
Fourth Prisoner Ori Batchko
Fifth Prisoner Dimitry Lovtchov


The Israeli Opera Chorus

Chorus Master: Ethan Schmeisser

The Young “Efroni” Choir

The Opera Orchestra - The Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion


Sung in English

English and Hebrew Surtitles
Translation: Israel Ouval


A coproduction with the Atlanta Opera




Two teenagers are brutally murdered by Joseph and Anthony De Rocher.


Act I


Scene i

Hope House, Sister Helen's mission, run by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Medaille

Sister Helen, with the aid of some of the other sisters, is teaching the children a hymn - He Will Gather Us Around. After the children leave, Helen reveals to her colleagues that she has heard from an inmate on death row with whom she has been corresponding. He has asked her to be his spiritual adviser through his execution, and she has decided to accept. The sisters are shocked, warning Helen of the dangers of her position, but she is firm.


Scene ii

The drive to the prison

Helen drives to Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola) and muses on her acceptance of De Rocher's request. She is stopped by a motorcycle police officer for speeding, but he lets her off with a warning after a short humorous soliloquy; "I never gave a ticket to a nun before."


Scene iii

Angola State Prison

Helen arrives at the prison and is met by Father Grenville, the prison chaplain, who conducts her inside.


Scene iv

Father Grenville's office

Father Grenville criticizes Sister Helen's choice to work with De Rocher, claiming that the man is unreachable. Helen responds that it is her duty to attempt to help the man. Father Grenville leaves her to meet with Warden Benton, who asks many of the same questions and criticizes her decision.


Scene v

Death Row

Warden Benton and Sister Helen walk through Death Row to reach the visiting room. They are heckled by the inmates who in turn shout profanities at her and ask her to say prayers for them.


Scene vi

Death Row visiting room

Warden Benton conducts De Rocher into the visiting room. He is friendly and easy-going. They converse; he asks her to speak at the pardon board hearing on his behalf to have his sentence commuted to life. He seems convinced that she will not return to help him; she assures him that such is not the case.


Scene vii

The pardon board hearing

Sister Helen is present with De Rocher's mother and two of his younger brothers, who plead with the pardon board on his behalf. One of Joseph's victims' parents lashes out at her in anger.


Scene viii

The courthouse parking lot

The four parents of De Rocher's victims speak angrily to his mother and to Sister Helen, who tries to calm both sides. The parents accuse her of not understanding their pain and sorrow. Word comes from the pardon board; De Rocher has not been granted commutation. Barring intercession from the governor for clemency, he is to die for his crime.


Scene ix

Death Row visiting room

De Rocher is convinced that Helen has abandoned him; she enters, late, and tells him that she has not and will not. He is angry and rejects all her suggestions to confess and make peace with his actions. The warden enters and tells Helen to leave at once.


Scene x

The prison waiting room

Helen is trying to find money to buy food from the vending machine, having forgotten to eat. She begins to hear the voices, in her head, of the parents, the children at Hope House, Father Grenville, the motorcycle policeman, Warden Benton, and her colleagues, all telling her to stop trying to help De Rocher. The warden enters to tell her that the governor has refused to act to save De Rocher, and gives Helen some money for the machine. She stands for a moment, and then faints.


Act II


Scene i

Joseph De Rocher's prison cell

A guard enters and tells De Rocher, who is doing pushups, that his execution date has been set for August 4. The guard leaves; Joseph muses on his fate.


Scene ii

Sister Helen's bedroom

Helen wakes up in terror from a nightmare, alarming Sister Rose, who begs her to stop working with De Rocher. Rose reminds her that she has not slept well since she began helping him. Helen says she cannot; the two women pray for the strength to forgive De Rocher.


Scene iii

Joseph's cell

It is the evening of the date set for the execution. De Rocher and Sister Helen are

talking; they discover they share a common love for Elvis. For the first time he admits that he is afraid. She reassures him, urging him to confess and make peace with what he has done; again, he refuses. The warden enters and informs them that his mother is there to see him.


Scene iv

The visiting room

Mrs. De Rocher and her two younger sons have arrived. Joseph visits with them,

and tries to apologize; she does not hear him, preferring to believe to the end that he is innocent. She complains that she baked him cookies, but was not allowed to bring them in. She asks Helen to take a last picture of the four of them together with the camera in her purse. The guards lead Joseph away; she looks after him, reminiscing, near tears, eventually losing control. She thanks Helen for all that she has done; Helen promises to take the cookies for her.


Scene v

Outside the Death House

Helen speaks with the victims' parents. One of them, Owen Hart, takes her aside and confesses that he is less sure of what he wants now than he was; he tells her that he and his wife have separated due to the stress they have felt. Helen tries to console him; they agree to part as "Fellow victims of Joseph De Rocher".


Scene vi/vii

Joseph's holding cell

Helen and De Rocher converse for the last time; she asks him to confess to the murders. This time, something in him snaps; he breaks down and tells her the entire story. He expects Helen to hate him; instead, she says she forgives him, and that she will be "the face of love" for him. He thanks her. Father Grenville enters and begins the final preparations for the execution.


Scene viii

March to the execution chamber/The execution chamber

Guards, inmates, the warden, the parents, the chaplain, and protesters assembled outside the prison. They approach the death chamber, and Helen is separated from De Rocher. The warden asks if he has any last words, he says he does, and asks forgiveness from the parents of the murdered teenagers. The warden gives the nod, and the execution proceeds. De Rocher dies thanking Helen once again for her love; the opera ends as she stands over his body and sings her hymn one last time.

Back Stage Secrets

Back Stage Secrets at the Opera
Many Opportunities to Widen your Opera Experience

Do you want to know more about the opera you are about to attend? Do you want to find out some back stage secrets? Do you want to meet the artists after the performance? The Israeli Opera enables you to widen your opera experience with a variety of pre performance and post-performance events. 

Towards Opening
On Saturday morning before the premiere, the creators of the production and several of the soloists gather to discuss the opera, the production, their own career and today’s opera world. This is a unique opportunity to learn as much as possible about the production and meet the director, conductor, designers and some of the participating soloists. Musical excerpts from the opera illustrate the discussion. Towards Opening takes place before some of each season’s productions.

Pre Performance Lecture
One hour before each opera performance there is a 30-minute introductory lecture in the auditorium (in Hebrew). Opera staffers present the opera and the production and enable the audience to get some extra information a short time before attending the performances. Admission is free for ticket holders. 

Pre Performance Back Stage Tours
What happens backstage before the audience even thinks of getting dressed for the performance? What do the singers do? The conductor? The Technical teams? How does everyone prepare for the performance? A unique opportunity to taste a little bit of the back stage excitement before the curtain ascends/ A concerted half hour tour in places that are not usually open to the general public. Tours begin 90 minute before the performance begins and last 30 minutes. Tickets are 25NIS and can be booked in advance (tickets for each tour are limited). Tours take place on several evenings in each production. Details can be found at the Israeli opera’s website. Tours from groups both in Hebrew and in English can be booked in advance (sarah@israelopera.org.il )

Opera Talkback
The curtain has just descended on the final scene of the opera. The hour is late. Nut the experience was riveting. This is the time to meet several of the performers. Come to listen and to speak. Ask questions. Meet the artists. A once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the artists who have just excited you on the stage. Opera Talkbacks takes place on the second level of the Opera House foyer and last around 30 minutes. Admission free. Opera Talkback takes place on several evenings in each production. Details can be found at the Israeli opera’s website. 






11 December 2019


Opening lecture

Before every show

An hour before every show

Back Stage Tours

 14,16,19  December 2019

16:30 / 18:30

Opera Talkback

 14,16,18,19   December 2019

After the show 


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