Jake Heggie


It is inspiring to see the numbers of young people eager and excited to explore that discipline; eager to challenge themselves to be better, to raise the bar and create something fine. This is what SongFest is about.
— Jake Heggie | Composer

Jake Heggie is the American composer of the operas Moby-Dick (libretto: Gene Scheer), Dead Man Walking (libretto: Terrence McNally), Three Decembers (libretto: Scheer), The End of the Affair (libretto: Heather McDonald), To Hell and Back (libretto: Scheer), For a Look or a Touch (libretto: Scheer) and At the Statue of Venus (libretto: McNally). He has also composed more than 250 art songs, as well as orchestral, choral and chamber music. His new recording of songs, here/after (PentaTone Classics) features performances by singers Talise Trevigne, Joyce DiDonato, Stephen Costello and Nathan Gunn, with flutist Carol Wincenc, The Alexander String Quartet, and others.

The Dallas Opera has announced the commission of Heggie’s next opera, GREAT SCOTT, with librettist Terrence McNally, set for a premiere on Oct 30, 2015. The opera will star Joyce DiDonato as Arden Scott, a famous singer who returns to her hometown to perform a forgotten bel canto opera titled Rosa Dolorosa, Daughter of Pompei. Mad scenes, an erupting volcano, children’s chorus and a corps de ballet are part of the chaos onstage, backstage and in Arden’s own life in this original story by McNally; directed by Jack O’Brien and conducted by Evan Rogister.

Upcoming premieres include The Radio Hour (libretto by Scheer) in May 2014 for the Pacific Chorale, conducted by John Alexander. Recent premieres have included Farewell, Auschwitz (lyrics by Scheer) for Music of Remembrance; Ahab Symphony (texts by Melville & Auden) at the University of North Texas with tenor Richard Croft; From the Book of Nightmares (poetry by Galway Kinnell) with soprano Lisa Delan and cellist Emil Miland; Camille Claudel: Into the Fire (libretto by Scheer) performed by DiDonato with the Alexander String Quartet; and Orcas Island Ferry, featuring violinist & violist Aloysia Friedmann and pianist Jon Kimura Parker.

Dead Man Walking has been performed more than 200 times since its San Francisco premiere in 2000, making it one of the most performed new American operas. Moby-Dick received its 2010 world premiere at The Dallas Opera and has since been performed by San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera, Calgary Opera and the State Opera of South Australia. It will be telecast on Great Performances in the fall of 2013; the Washington National Opera will produce the East Coast premiere in February 2014 at the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Heggie’s operas have been performed to tremendous acclaim internationally in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Austria, South Africa and by more than a dozen American opera companies.

The composer’s numerous songs and cycles, including The Deepest Desire, Statuesque, Here & Gone, Rise & Fall, Songs & Sonnets to Ophelia, Facing Forward/Looking Back, Friendly Persuasions, and Songs to the Moon, are featured in concerts around the world by some of the world’s most beloved and celebrated singers. Among those who have championed Heggie’s works are sopranos Emily Albrink, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Kristin Clayton, Nicolle Foland, Emily Pulley, Talise Trevigne, Kiri Te Kanawa; mezzos Joyce Castle, Catherine Cook, Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Kristine Jepson, Frederica von Stade; Broadway soprano Patti LuPone; tenors Stephen Costello, Paul Groves, Ben Heppner, Jay Hunter Morris, Nicholas Phan; and baritones Philip Cutlip, Nathan Gunn, Jonathan Lemalu, Daniel Okulitch, Keith Phares, Morgan Smith and Bryn Terfel.

Heggie is an ardent champion of writers. Most of his operas and stage works feature libretti written by either Terrence McNally or Gene Scheer; while sources for song texts and poetry have also included Maya Angelou, W.H. Auden, Charlene Baldridge, Raymond Carver, Emily Dickinson, John Hall, A.E. Housman, Galway Kinnell, Vachel Lindsay, Philip Littell, Armistead Maupin, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sister Helen Prejean, Gini Savage, Vincent Van Gogh, Frederica von Stade, and Eugenia Zukerman, to name a few. The composer has a close association with the conductor Patrick Summers, who has led the world premieres of all the composer’s major operas; and the director Leonard Foglia, who has directed the premieres of Moby-Dick, Three Decembers, and The End of the Affair, as well as the United States national tour of Dead Man Walking.

Recordings of Heggie’s compositions include here/after (PentaTone Classics), Dead Man Walking (Virgin Classics), The Deepest Desire (Kansas City Symphony), At The Statue of Venus (GPR), PASSING BY: Songs by Jake Heggie (Avie), Three Decembers (Albany), Flesh and Stone (Americus), To Hell and Back (Magnatune), The Faces of Love (RCA Red Seal), For a Look or a Touch (Naxos). Heggie is the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and has been a guest artist at Boston University, Bucknell, Cornell, UNT College of Music, USC Thornton School of Music, University of Colorado, University of Oregon, and Vanderbilt. He has also been a resident artist at summer festivals such as SongFest at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, and the Steans Institute at Ravinia. Jake Heggie lives in San Francisco. www.jakeheggie.com