Photo Journal: Jake Heggie's Last Acts Premieres at Houston Grand Opera

By Matt Blank
March 6, 2008

On Feb. 29 Houston Grand Opera debuted Last Acts, a new chamber piece by composer Jake Heggie in collaboration with lyricist Gene Scheer.


Heggie is perhaps best known for his first opera, Dead Man Walking. This new work is an adaptation of a short Terrence McNally play entitled Some Christmas Letters.

According to press notes, the story "follows the life of an actress and mother named Madeline and her two grown children as they struggle to know and love one another." It takes place in a series of three separate incidents occurring in the years 1986, 1996 and 2006.

The small cast is led by renowned mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, for whom the role of Madeline was created. She is joined by baritone Keith Phares as son Charlie and soprano Kristin Clayton as daughter Beatrice. They are backed by an orchestra consisting of two pianos (one manned by Heggie and the other by HGO music director Patrick Summers) and eight additional instruments.

A co-commission with San Francisco Opera and Cal Performances, this production runs through March 15 at Houston's Cullen Theater. As Last Acts was the working title for the piece while it was in development, future productions will be known as Three Decembers.

For more information or tickets visit www.houstongrandopera.org

Click here to read Jake Heggie's Playbill Feature article about Last Acts and the art of collaboration.

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All photos courtesy of Houston Grand Opera.

Frederica von Stade as Madeline Mitchell


Charlie (Keith Phares) and Beatrice (Kristin Clayton) share some brother and sister time.


Charlie (Keith Phares) and Beatrice (Kristin Clayton)


Frederica von Stade
Kristin Clayton


Charlie (Keith Phares) journals to his deceased lover.


Frederica von Stade


Patrick Summers (HGO Music Director and conductor), Keith Phares (Charlie), Gene Scheer (librettist), Frederica von Stade (Madeline), Jake Heggie (Composer) and Kristin Clayton (Beatrice) take a bow