Artist Profile: Jake Heggie, A Major American Composer of 21st Century Opera

By David Salazar

Jake Heggie is one of the significant opera composers of the 21st century.

Born on March 31, 1961, Heggie grew up in Columbus, Ohio and started studying the piano at age seven. After his father’s suicide in 1972, Heggie began writing music and his family relocated to the San Francisco Bay area. He studied at the UCLA for both his graduate and undergraduate studies. It was during his time there that he met Johana Harris, widow of the composer Roy Harris. The two would marry and become frequent collaborators until 1989.

Heggie would endure issues of focal dystonia, which prevented continued piano playing. After being hired as the Public Relations Associate for the San Francisco Opera, he started playing again and composing.

His first opera, “Dead Man Walking” had its premiere in 2000 and from there Heggie would go on to compose a number of notable works of the modern repertory, including “Three Decembers,” “Great Scott,” “Moby Dick,” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” among others. He has enjoyed frequent collaborations with such artists as Frederica Von Stade, Joyce DiDonato, and Susan Graham, among many others.

Signature Works

The composer has a number of major works playing around the world, but the two most popular and renowned are undeniably “Moby Dick” and, more significantly, “Dead Man Walking.” The latter has appeared not only all around the U.S., but has also made appearances in Europe.

Read More on Heggie

Here is a Q &A Interview with the Composer

Check out this review of “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Here is a quiz on Jake Heggie’s career.

Heggie’s Collaboration With Frederica Van Stade

Watch and Listen

Listen to the full-length recording of “Dead Man Walking.”

And here is a recording of “Great Scott.”


Opera Wiki