Jake Heggie

Jake Heggie

b. 1961



Jake Heggie is the American composer of the operas Dead Man Walking (libretto by Terrence McNally), Moby-Dick (libretto by Gene Scheer), Three Decembers (Scheer), It’s a Wonderful Life (Scheer), If I Were You (Scheer), Great Scott (McNally), and Two Remain (Scheer), among others. He is currently at work with Jawole Zollar and Gene Scheer on Intelligence, a new stage work commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera. In addition to nine full-length operas and numerous one-acts, Heggie has composed nearly 300 art songs, as well as concerti, chamber music, choral and orchestral works. New York’s Metropolitan Opera has announced bold new productions of Dead Man Walking and Moby-Dick for upcoming seasons.

Also upcoming are new works for violinist Joshua Bell, soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, the Miró String Quartet, the New Century Chamber Orchestra, and Before It All Goes Dark, a one-act opera for Music of Remembrance featuring baritone Ryan McKinny and mezzo Megan Marino. Heggie’s most recent works include Lake Tahoe Symphonic Reflections for full orchestra, commissioned by the Classical Tahoe Festival; and Fantasy Suite 1803 for violinist Daniel Hope and pianist Lise de la Salle, commissioned by the Beethoven House in Bonn, Germany. In 2020, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and violinist Daniel Hope gave the premiere of Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope to texts by Gene Scheer (Pentatone Records), and in 2021, baritone Joshua Hopkins gave the premiere of Songs for Murdered Sisters, to new poems by the great Margaret Atwood (Pentatone). Unexpected Shadows, a recording of Heggie’s songs featuring mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, was released by Pentatone in 2021 and nominated for a 2022 Grammy Award. Also in 2021, Barton and Heggie gave the premiere of What I Miss the Most… a song cycle to new texts by Joyce DiDonato, Patti LuPone, Sister Helen Prejean, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Kathleen Kelly.

Heggie’s operas and art songs have been performed extensively on five continents, championed by some of the world’s most beloved artists. Dead Man Walking, “the most celebrated American opera of the 21st century” (Chicago Tribune), has received 75 international productions since its premiere in October of 2000. In addition to numerous performances throughout the United States, Dead Man Walking has been seen at major theaters in Dresden, Vienna, London, Madrid, Copenhagen, Sydney, Montréal, Calgary, Dublin and Cape Town, to name a few. San Francisco Opera’s thrilling production of Moby-Dick was telecast as a featured part of Great Performances’ 40th Season and subsequently released on DVD (EuroArts). The opera 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). Heggie & Scheer’s opera Three Decembers (based on a script by Terrence McNally) has received nearly 40 international productions.

The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Heggie has served as a composer mentor for Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative, Chicago Opera Theater’s Vanguard Initiative and CU Boulder’s New Opera Workshop. He has been awarded the Eddie Medora King Prize from UT Austin’s Butler School of Music and the Champion Award from the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

Heggie was the keynote speaker for the 2016 meeting of National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and has given commencement addresses at the Eastman School of Music and at Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music. He is a frequent guest artist at universities and conservatories, and has held brief residencies at 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 and Vanderbilt University. For many years, he has been a guest artist at SongFest, the beloved art song festival now held at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

In his teens, Heggie studied composition with Ernst Bacon. At UCLA, he worked closely with pianist Johana Harris and composers Paul DesMarais, Roger Bourland and David Raksin. Prior to composing Dead Man Walking, he was mentored by his friend Carlisle Floyd.

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

Photo Credit: James Niebuhr