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I saw the SF Opera's performance of Dead Man Walking. I loved the libretto, the staging and the costumes and the singing and playing was excellent. The score, however, was not at all avant. The convict's lines were "bluesy" which is trite and also highly problematic in how it references race stereotypes. When he found out he was going to be executed on his brother's birthday, I remember a cue from Happy Birthday in minor.

However, the accessibility of the music probably contributed to the success and popularity of the opera. There may have been a need for tradeoff between highlighting the political and social contexts of the work - the libretto, and maverickness of the score. It would be nice to be able to do effective popular politically oriented pieces with no sacrifices, but that doesn't seem to be possible.

I enjoyed the opera and would see it again, though. It's not all bad. It just could have been better.

Richard Friedman

Why would you expect anything by Heggie to be "avant"?
What I've heard of his is competent art song, a young Ned Rorem, perhaps, with a bit of musical theater thrown in. But certainly not "avant". Turn to Bob Ashley for "avant".

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