(born West Palm Beach, Florida 31 March 1961)
Jake Heggie is known as one of modern opera’s most exciting contemporary composers, describing himself as primarily concerned with ‘exploring character’. It’s clear to see why the nuanced tale of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life appealed to Heggie, wherein the banker’s emotional turmoil is at the heart of the plot, and key to the music. To learn more about this upcoming opera, take a look at our Introduction to It’s a Wonderful Life
Heggie's Musical Style
An American composer influenced by multiple styles, Heggie often infuses gospel, jazz and pop elements into his works, making operas accessible to audiences, whilst often challenging their understanding of what traditional ‘opera’ can be.
Born in 1961, Jake Heggie began studying piano when he was seven years old, and writing music a few years later. First and foremost a pianist in his early years, Heggie toured the country with his wife Johana Harris as a performing duo until 1989, where illness led to a switch in career. Working in public relations at San Francisco Opera, Heggie returned to composing as a pastime, using the contacts he made within the company to assist him in his pursuits.
Heggie’s beloved opera Dead Man Walking, premiered in 2000, is perhaps foremost in his compositional output, focussing on the story of Sister Helen Prejean, a nun who spiritually supports a convicted killer as he awaits execution on death row.
Other major works have included Moby-Dick, The End of the Affair and Three Decembers, all well received critically.