Jake Heggie is the composer of the operas Dead Man Walking (2000), The End of the Affair (2004), At The Statue of Venus (2005), To Hell and Back (2006), and Moby-Dick (2010), as well as the stage work For a Look or a Touch. He has composed more than 200 art songs as well as chamber and concert works. His operas and songs are championed internationally by singers who include Isabel Bayrakdarian, Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, Frederica von Stade, Audra McDonald, Patti LuPone, Joyce DiDonato, Jennifer Larmore, Bryn Terfel and many others. He also accompanies many of these artists in recitals.
Heggie was born in West Palm Beach, Florida, and started learning the piano when he was five years old. After spending two years in Paris, he continued his studies at the age of 20 at the University of California, Los Angeles, with the pianist Johana Harris (1912–1995), widow of the composer Roy Harris. They married in 1982 (he was 21, she 69) and separated in 1993.
In 1998 he was appointed composer in residence to the San Francisco Opera, where his first opera, Dead Man Walking, was first performed in 2000. With a libretto by Terrence McNally and a production by director Joe Mantello, the opera was extensively acclaimed and it ran for two extra performances due to popularity. It has since been seen in 15 international productions, including performances at New York City Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Opera Pacific, Baltimore Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Union Avenue Opera of Saint Louis, Calgary Opera, Dresden State Opera, State Opera of South Australia, with future performances in Vienna, Sydney and Montreal. In 2007 alone, Dead Man Walking received more than 50 performances. Directors of subsequent productions have included Leonard Foglia and Nikolaus Lehnhoff. His second opera, The End of the Affair, was premiered in 2004 at the Houston Grand Opera. It has since been produced by Madison Opera, Seattle Opera and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.
In 2005, Heggie collaborated again with Terrence McNally to create At the Statue of Venus, which opened the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver. In 2006, he debuted To Hell and Back (libretto by Gene Scheer), commissioned by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and featuring soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian and Patti LuPone, conducted by Nicholas McGegan in November 2006.
On 29 February 2008, his opera Last Acts, with a libretto by Gene Scheer based on a play by Terrence McNally, opened at the Houston Grand Opera, which commissioned the work in association with the San Francisco Opera and Cal Performances. Last Acts was its working title; it will in future be known as Three Decembers.
On April 30, 2010, Heggie premiered his most recent opera, Moby-Dick (libretto by Gene Scheer) at The Dallas Opera, with tenors Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab and Stephen Costello as Greenhorn (Ishmael).
Several of Heggie's works have been recorded, including, on the Pentatone label, The Hours Begin to Sing, a recital by Lisa Delan, which includes four songs from Heggie's Book of Nightmares; And if the song be worth a smile, another recital by Lisa Delan with four songs by Heggie; and HERE/AFTER, a song cycle partly about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Heggie married his partner of eight years, singer Curt Branom, in October 2008.
Heggie's major works include a cello concerto (Holy The Firm), commissioned by the Oakland East Bay Symphony for cellist Emil Miland; and the song cycles The Deepest Desire (poetry by Sister Helen Prejean); The Starry Night (poetry by Anne Sexton, van Gogh and Emily Dickinson); Statuesque (poetry by Gene Scheer); Rise and Fall (poetry by Gene Scheer); Here and Gone (poetry by Vachel Lindsay and A. E. Housman); and Winter Roses (poetry by Raymond Carver, Charlene Baldridge, Frederica von Stade and Emily Dickinson).
Heggie's list of current commissions includes works for the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, San Francisco Opera, Music of Remembrance, Ravinia Festival, Wigmore Hall, and the University of North Texas.
- Ralph Blumenthal, "For an Operatic Life, Check Out the Composer’s" The New York Times (March 13, 2008)
- Blank, Matt (6 March 2008). "Photo Journal: Jake Heggie's Last Acts Premieres at Houston Grand Opera". Playbill. Retrieved 31 March 2008.
- Midgette (May 3, 2010)
- Zinko, Carolyne (7 December 2008). "Profile: Opera composer Jake Heggie". SFGate.com.
- Blue, Robert Wilder, "Jake's Journey", interview about Dead Man Walking and The End of the Affair on usoperaweb.com (Spring 2004)
- Jake Heggie's official web site
- Phillips, Wes, "Dead Man Walking: Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally" on stereophile.com. (May 2002)