The twin themes of compassion and redemption are at the heart of Dead Man Walking. Yes, it's about the death penalty, but that's like saying Moby Dick is about sailing. The real journey is one of spiritual awakening, both for condemned criminal Joseph De Rocher, and for Sister Helen Prejean, the nun who helps Joseph find his way to admitting his guilt and asking for forgiveness. Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally translated Sr. Prejean's book into an opera that condenses all of the fear, shame, confusion and pain caused by murder into a magnifying lens, and then turn that lens on the killer, his victims' families, his own family and the system itself. The result is a big-picture view of action and consequence, of hate and love, and of spiritual redemption. It's a heartbreaker, but there's something uplifting in the tale as well. Union Avenue Opera presents Dead Man Walking in the original English at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (August 19 through 27) at Union Avenue Christian Church (733 North Union Boulevard; 314-361-2881 or www.unionavenueopera.org). Tickets are $30 to $52. Note that Sr. Helen Prejean will attend opening night and sign copies of her book after the performance.
Fridays, Saturdays. Starts: Aug. 19. Continues through Aug. 27, 2011