Composer Biography

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Jake Heggie, Composer & Pianist

Photo © Ellen Appel

Jake Heggie is the American composer of the operas Dead Man Walking (libretto by Terrence McNally), Moby-Dick (libretto by Gene Scheer), It’s A Wonderful Life (Scheer), Great Scott (McNally), Three Decembers (Scheer), To Hell and Back (Scheer), Out of Darkness: Two Remain (Scheer), At the Statue of Venus (McNally) and The Radio Hour: A Choral Opera (Scheer). He is currently at work on If I Were You (Scheer), a new opera based on the Faustian story by Julian Green, commissioned by the Merola Opera Program for Summer of 2019. Heggie has also composed nearly 300 art songs, as well as concerti, chamber music, choral and orchestral works, including the Ahab Symphony.

The operas – most created with the distinguished writers Terrence McNally or Gene Scheer – have been produced on five continents. In February 2017, Dead Man Walking received its 50th international production at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC in a new production by director Francesca Zambello. Since its San Francisco Opera premiere in 2000, Dead Man Walking has been performed more than 300 times and recorded live twice (Erato Records in 2001; Virgin Classics in 2011). In addition to major productions throughout the USA, Dead Man Walking has been seen in Dresden, Vienna, Sydney, Adelaide, Calgary, Montreal, Cape Town, Dublin, Copenhagen, and Malmö, with future production set for Vancouver, Madrid and London. Moby-Dick has received seven international productions since its 2010 premiere at The Dallas Opera with future productions in the USA and Europe. The San Francisco Opera production was telecast as part of Great Performances’ 40th anniversary season and released on DVD (EuroArts). Moby-Dick received its East Coast premiere at the Kennedy Center in 2014. It is also the subject of a book by Robert Wallace, titled Heggie & Scheer’s Moby-Dick – A Grand opera for the 21st Century (UNT Press). Three Decembers, Heggie & Scheer’s three-character chamber opera, has received nearly 20 productions internationally.

Denyce Graves in Kentucky Opera’s production of “Three Decembers” Photo by Bill Brymer.

In 2016, Heggie was awarded the Eddie Medora King Prize by the UT Austin Butler School of Music. He was also the recipient of the Champion Award from the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus in a private concert that featured a performance by the great Patti LuPone. Heggie was the keynote speaker for the 2016 meeting of the National Association of Schools of Music in Dallas, and this year, he will give commencement addresses at Eastman’s Jacobs School of Music and Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music. A Guggenheim Fellow, he served for three years as a mentor for Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative. He is a frequent guest artist and master teacher at universities and conservatories, including Boston University, Bucknell, Cincinnati Conservatory, Cornell, Eastman, CU Boulder, Northwestern, The Royal Conservatory in Toronto, UNI, UNT, UT Austin, USC’s Thornton School, Vanderbilt University, and at festivals such as SongFest at the Colburn School, Ravinia Festival, and VISI in Vancouver.

Photo: Art & Clarity

Jake Heggie has collaborated as composer and pianist with some of the world’s most loved singers, including sopranos Kiri Te Kanawa, Renée Fleming, Ailyn Pérez, Heidi Stober, Karen Slack, Talise Trevigne, Kristin Clayton, Ann Moss, Caitlin Lynch and Lisa Delan; mezzo-sopranos Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Frederica von Stade, Jamie Barton, Suzanne Mentzer, Joyce Castle, Elise Quagliata, Catherine Cook and Sasha Cooke; Broadway stars Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald; tenors Ben Heppner, William Burden, Stephen Costello, Jay Hunter Morris, Paul Groves and Jonathan Blalock; baritones Keith Phares, Nathan Gunn, Morgan Smith, Rod Gilfry, Bryn Terfel, Michael Mayes and Robert Orth. He has also worked closely with extraordinary instrumentalists such as flutists Carol Wincenc and Lorna McGhee; violinists Leila Josefowicz, Aloysia Friedmann and Dawn Harms; cellists Matt Haimowitz, Emil Miland and Anne Martindale-Williams; pianists Jon Kimura Parker and Gustavo Romero; as well as the Brentano String Quartet and the Alexander String Quartet. Directors who have championed his work include Leonard Foglia, Joe Mantello, Francesca Zambello and Jack O’Brien. All of Heggie’s major opera premieres have been led by Patrick Summers; he has also worked closely with conductors John DeMain, Joseph Mechavich and Nicole Paiement.

Jake Heggie lives in San Francisco with his husband, Curt Branom.

For more, visit jakeheggie.com.