July 09, 2019

From Page to Stage: When literature gives way to great opera

Literature has inspired many great operas, from Lucia di Lammermoor (based on Walter Scott's The Bride of Lammermoor) and La traviata (based on Alexandre Dumas's La Dame aux camélias) to Eugene Onegin (based on Alexander Pushkin's novel of the same name). The Queen of Spades, on stage in February/March 2020, is based on a world-famous short story, also by Alexander Pushkin. More recently, Benjamin Britten adapted Henry James's The Turn of the Screw and Poul Ruders created an opera based on Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (also a successful television series).

Canadian Opera Company's production of The Queen of Spades

This November, Lyric is proud to present one of the most powerful operas of the 21st century, Dead Man Walking, based on Sister Helen Prejean’s riveting account of serving as spiritual adviser to a death-row inmatea #1 bestselling book that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and went on to become an Academy Award-winning film. 

This important Chicago premiere features a romantic score by Jake Heggie and a libretto by acclaimed playwright Terrence McNally, recent recipient of the 2019 Tony Lifetime Achievement Award. For those who love a great story, Dead Man Walking offers a unique opportunity to read the book, and then to see that book come to life in an entirely new form.

Teatro Real's production of Dead Man Walking

Do you have a book club? We've crafted a special program just for you: All book clubs receive special discounts on opera tickets, plus book club leaders receive a free copy of Dead Man Walking and access to Lyric’s book discussion guide. You'll also have the opportunity to bring your group to an exclusive, complimentary pre-show reception. Your club may also be interested in Sister Helen Prejean's new memoir, River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey, which will be widely released on August 13, 2019 and continues exploration of themes in Dead Man Walking.

To learn more about bringing your group to Lyric, contact our Group Sales team at 312.827.5720 or email groupsales@lyricopera.org.


Hugely acclaimed in major houses internationally, Dead Man Walking is widely acknowledged as one of the most riveting operas of the 21st century. It simply demands to be seen.

Lyric premiere of Heggie’s Dead Man Walking generously made possible by

Roberta L. and Robert J. Washlow

Production owned by Lyric Opera of Chicago. Originally created by Opera Pacific, Cincinnati Opera, New York City Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Pittsburgh Opera, and Baltimore Opera.

Music by Jake Heggie. Libretto by Terrence McNally. Based on the novel by Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ. Commissioned by San Francisco Opera.

Photo credit: Michael Cooper/Canadian Opera Company, Javier del Real/Teatro Real