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), If I Were You (Scheer), Great Scott (McNally), Three Decembers (Scheer), Two Remain (Scheer), To Hell and Back (Scheer) and At the Statue of Venus (McNally). In addition to eight full-length operas and several one-acts, Heggie has composed nearly 300 art songs, as well as concerti, chamber music, choral and orchestral works. Most recently, he completed the dramatic song cycle titled Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope (texts by Gene Scheer), commissioned by Music at Kohl Mansion to mark the first West Coast visit of the remarkable collection of instruments known as the Violins of Hope; instruments played in concentration camps during the Holocaust and restored over the past 40 years. The orchestral premiere of the work was commissioned by and will be premiere at the 2020 Cabrillo Festival. Heggie is also writing a new chamber work to celebrate the 50th anniversary of flutist Carol Wincenc’s remarkable performing career.
The operas—most created with Terrence McNally or Gene Scheer—have been produced on five continents. Later this year, Dead Man Walking will receive its 70th international production at the Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv, the first American opera to be produced by that company. New York’s Metropolitan Opera recently announced that it will produce Dead Man Walking during its 2020-21 season in a new production by director Ivo van Hove, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Since its San Francisco Opera premiere in 2000, Dead Man Walking has been performed more than 300 times and recorded live twice. In addition to major productions throughout the USA, Dead Man Walking has been seen in Dresden, Vienna, London, Madrid, Sydney, Adelaide, Calgary, Montreal, Cape Town, Dublin, Copenhagen, and Malmö. Moby-Dick has received 12 international productions since its 2010 premiere at The Dallas Opera; San Francisco Opera’s production was telecast as part of Great Performances’ 40th anniversary season and released on DVD (EuroArts). 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 30 international productions. Great Scott was a 2019 Grammy Award nominee for Best New Composition, Classical.
A Guggenheim Fellow, Heggie has also served as a mentor for Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative and CU Boulder’s New Opera Workshop. In 2016, he 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 (NASM) in Dallas and in 2017, gave commencement addresses at the Eastman School of Music and Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music. He is a frequent guest artist and master teacher at universities and conservatories, including Boston University, Bucknell, Cincinnati Conservatory, Cornell, Eastman, CU Boulder, Northwestern, Peabody Conservatory, Roosevelt, The Royal Conservatory in Toronto, San Diego State, UNI, UNT, UT Austin, USC’s Thornton School, Vanderbilt University, and at festivals such as SongFest at the Colburn School and Ravinia.
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, Maria Zifchak, Catherine Cook and Sasha Cooke; Broadway stars Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald; tenors Ben Heppner, William Burden, Stephen Costello, Jay Hunter Morris, Paul Groves, Nick Phan 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 Miró Quartet, 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.
Photo by Karen Almond