August 24, 2017

A note from Patrick Summers about “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Jake Heggie is bringing opera back to the people

“All theatrical composers have themes that continually inspire and define their art. For Verdi, it was tension between public duty and private passion. Wagner was obsessed with the ancient Greek dramatists and the redemptive power of women. Benjamin Britten continually returned to themes about how societies vilify outsiders.

One of the most popular opera composers of our young century, Jake Heggie, musically and theatrically illuminates rich human stories about identity, the theme to which he so often returns. All of his major characters – both Sister Helen Prejean and the doomed title character in Dead Man Walkin; Sarah in The End of the Affair; Madeline Mitchell in Three Decembers; the unforgettable fellow citizens we meet in Out of Darkness; the entire crew aboard Moby-Dick‘s Pequod; and the ardent Arden Scott, the title character in Great Scott – are at the crossroads of a profound why in their lives. The same is true of It’s a Wonderful Life, a memory piece about two characters who come to each other’s aid in ways we don’t fully understand until the opera’s moving climax. 

It’s a Wonderful Life is also about the transformative effect of simple kindnesses, a perfect description of the gratitude that I know Jake Heggie feels towards his growing audience. He is, in his unassuming, bold, and accessible way, bringing opera back to the people.” 

Patrick Summers, conductor