Biography

“… stands comparison with, say, Poulenc in the 20th century…” The Sunday Times, London

“…Heggie’s way with music, the way in which his choices unlock and intensify the poetry and drama of the words, is consistently illuminating, full of surprises.” Gramophone Magazine

“arguably the world’s most popular 21st-century opera and art song composer” The Wall Street Journal

“U.S. opera’s most successful composer” Opera News



Photo © Ellen Appel
Photo © Ellen Appel

Jake Heggie, Composer & Pianist

Complete Biography

Jake Heggie is the American composer of the operas Dead Man Walking (libretto by Terrence McNally), Moby-Dick (libretto by Gene Scheer), Three Decembers (Scheer), It’s a Wonderful Life (Scheer), If I Were You (Scheer), Great Scott (McNally), and Two Remain (Scheer), among others. He is currently at work with Jawole Zollar and Gene Scheer on INTELLIGENCE, a new stage work commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera. In addition to nine full-length operas and numerous one-acts, Heggie has composed nearly 300 art songs, as well as concerti, chamber music, choral and orchestral works. New York’s Metropolitan Opera has announced bold new productions of Dead Man Walking and Moby-Dick for upcoming seasons.

The opera Three Decembers by Jake Heggie at Houston Grand Opera, 2008. Frederick von Stade & Keith Phares.
Three Decembers at Houston Grand Opera, 2008
Frederica von Stade & Keith Phares

Photo Brett Coomer

Also upcoming are new works for violinist Joshua Bell, the Miró String Quartet and a one-act opera for Music of Remembrance featuring baritone Ryan McKinney. Heggie’s most recent works include Lake Tahoe Symphonic Reflections for full orchestra, commissioned by the Classical Tahoe Festival; and Fantasy Suite 1803 for violinist Daniel Hope and pianist Lise de la Salle, commissioned by the Beethoven House in Bonn, Germany. In 2020, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and violinist Daniel Hope gave the premiere of INTONATIONS: Songs from the Violins of Hope to texts by Gene Scheer (Pentatone Records), and in 2021, baritone Joshua Hopkins gave the premiere of Songs for Murdered Sisters, to new poems by the great Margaret Atwood (Pentatone). Unexpected Shadows, a recording of Heggie’s songs featuring mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, was released by Pentatone in 2021 and nominated for a 2022 Grammy Award. Also in 2021, Barton and Heggie gave the premiere of What I Miss the Most… a song cycle to new texts by Joyce DiDonato, Patti LuPone, Sister Helen Prejean, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Kathleen Kelly.

Heggie’s operas and art songs have been performed extensively on five continents, championed by some of the world’s most beloved artists. Dead Man Walking, “the most celebrated American opera of the 21st century” (Chicago Tribune), has received 75 international productions since its premiere in October of 2000. In addition to numerous performances throughout the United States, Dead Man Walking has been seen at major theaters in Dresden, Vienna, London, Madrid, Copenhagen, Sydney, Montréal, Calgary, Dublin and Cape Town, to name a few. San Francisco Opera’s thrilling production of Moby-Dick was telecast as a featured part of Great Performances’ 40th Season and subsequently released on DVD (EuroArts). The opera is also the subject of a book by Robert Wallace titled Heggie & Scheer’s Moby-Dick: A Grand Opera for the 21st Century (UNT Press). Heggie & Scheer’s opera Three Decembers (based on a script by Terrence McNally) has received nearly 40 international productions.

The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Heggie has served as a composer mentor for Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative, Chicago Opera Theater’s Vanguard Initiative and CU Boulder’s New Opera Workshop. He has been awarded the Eddie Medora King Prize from UT Austin’s Butler School of Music and the Champion Award from the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

Joyce DiDonato & Jake Heggie 
Joyce DiDonato & Jake Heggie
Heggie was the keynote speaker for the 2016 meeting of National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and has given commencement addresses at the Eastman School of Music and at Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music. He is a frequent guest artist at universities and conservatories, and has held brief residencies at Boston University, Bucknell, Cincinnati Conservatory, Cornell, Eastman, CU Boulder, Northwestern, Peabody Conservatory, Roosevelt, The Royal Conservatory in Toronto, San Diego State, UNI, UNT, UT Austin, USC’s Thornton School and Vanderbilt University. For many years, he has been a guest artist at SongFest, the beloved art song festival now held at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

In his teens, Heggie studied composition with Ernst Bacon. At UCLA, he worked closely with pianist Johana Harris and composers Paul DesMarais, Roger Bourland and David Raksin. Prior to composing Dead Man Walking, he was mentored by his friend Carlisle Floyd.

Jake Heggie lives in San Francisco with his husband, Curt Branom.  jakeheggie.com

Note: When printing or publishing Jake’s bio, please include the website address jakeheggie.com



Photo © Ellen Appel
Photo © Ellen Appel

Jake Heggie, Composer & Pianist

Short Biography

Composer JAKE HEGGIE is best known for the operas Dead Man Walking, Moby-Dick, It’s A Wonderful Life, Three Decembers, Two Remain and If I Were You. He is currently at work on his 10th full-length opera, INTELLIGENCE, with Jawole Zollar and Gene Scheer, as well as new works for violinists Daniel Hope and Joshua Bell, the Miró Quartet, the Classical Tahoe Festival, and Music of Remembrance. The operas and his nearly 300 art songs have been performed extensively on five continents, championed by some of the world’s most beloved artists. With a libretto by the late Terrence McNally, Dead Man Walking has become “the most celebrated American opera of the 21 st century” (Chicago Tribune) with 75 international productions since its San Francisco Opera premiere in 2000. The Metropolitan Opera has announced a new production of Dead Man Walking for a future season, directed by Ivo van Hove and conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. The Met has also announced that it will produce Moby-Dick. Recent premieres have included the song cycle What I Miss the Most… composed for mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton to new texts by Joyce DiDonato, Patti LuPone, Sister Helen Prejean, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Kathleen Kelly. Jamie Barton is also featured on Unexpected Shadows, a recording of Heggie’s songs released by Pentatone (2022 Grammy nominee). Songs for Murdered Sisters, a cycle to new poetry by Margaret Atwood for baritone Joshua Hopkins, was commissioned by Houston Grand Opera and premiered in a film by director James Niebuhr (2022 Canadian Juno Award nominee). Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope (texts by Gene Scheer), was composed for mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and violinist Daniel Hope to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz (Pentatone). Jake Heggie lives in San Francisco with his husband, Curt Branom.  jakeheggie.com

Note: When printing or publishing Jake’s bio, please include the website address jakeheggie.com