Union Avenue Opera Mounts Powerful Dead Man Walking
by Christie Connolley
Union Avenue Opera opened Heggie’s Dead Man Walking this past weekend to great reviews. Sarah Bryan Miller of STLtoday.com had lots of praise for the production! Here is the Operagasm review rundown:
Big risk, big reward: “Union Avenue Opera, known primarily for its pocket productions of grand operas, stepped out this weekend in a new direction: a contemporary score, “Dead Man Walking,” gritty but lyrical, by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Terrence McNally. It’s a stretch for a small group, but artistic director Scott Schoonover, director Tim Ocel and everyone else involved really knocked themselves out for this one. It’s probably the finest production that UAO has ever done.”
All the world’s a cell!: “It starts with Patrick Huber’s grim, evocative unit set. A raised platform in the center of the stage -serving as classroom, office, cell, bedroom, death chamber – is set off with movable partitions of utilitarian chain-link fence. A balcony has been added around the back and sides. Even the side galleries of the auditorium have been pressed into service (fitted with bars to suggest cells on death row), an idea which might prove useful in the future when the size of the chorus needed for a particular production is too large to be contained on the little stage.”
Kudos: “Elise Quagliata gave the role Sister’s Helen’s authentic strength and humor, fears and faith, and sang throughout with a dark, expressive voice that was strong in the upper register. She was well-matched by charismatic baritone Jordan Shanahan, who gave the convicted murderer Joseph de Rocher a completely human complexity that mixed the killer’s darkness with a spiritual spark. His fine baritone voice sounded beautiful or rough in turn when his music called for it, and it was intelligently used throughout, in the service of the drama.”
A little less Barney’s and a little more Kmart: “Teresa Doggett’s costumes were usually spot on, although the preschool students and their mothers seemed awfully upscale for an inner-city neighborhood…”
Tickets are still available for this weekend. Get them here!