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The Forum with Jake Heggie: If I Were You

May 05, 2019

5:30 pm

The American composer of the operas Dead Man WalkingMoby-Dick and It’s A Wonderful Life on his new work, a contemporary story of identity with echoes of classic literature, from Faust to Jekyll and Hyde. 







About the guest

Jake Heggie is the composer of the operas Dead Man Walking, Moby-Dick, It’s A Wonderful Life, Great Scott, Three Decembers, Out of Darkness: Two Remain, and the choral opera, The Radio Hour, among others. He has also composed nearly 300 songs, as well as chamber, choral and orchestral works. The operas – most created with writers Terrence McNally or Gene Scheer – have been produced on five continents. Moby-Dick (Scheer) was telecast throughout the United States as part of Great Performances’ 40th Season and released on DVD (EuroArts). Dead Man Walking (McNally) has received 60 international productions and has been recorded twice. Three Decembers has received nearly two dozen international productions. The composer was recently awarded the Eddie Medora King prize from the UT Austin Butler School of Music, and the Champion Award from the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. A Guggenheim Fellow, Heggie has served as a mentor for the Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative and is a frequent guest artist at universities, conservatories and festivals throughout the USA and Canada. He and Gene Scheer are currently at work on If I Were You, based on the Faustian story by Julian Green, for the Merola Opera Program’s 2019 season.

About If I Were You

If I Were You, with music by Jake Heggie and libretto by Gene Scheer, is based on the book Si j’étais vous, by Julien Green. The plot follows the adventures of Fabian Hart, a dispirited young man. An aspiring writer, a dreamer yearning for a way out of his stifling existence, he would sell his very soul to be somebody else. The devil appears to him in various guises and reveals to him a supernatural power that will allow him to transfer his soul into another person’s body to live their life. Thus begins a perilous journey as Fabian moves his lost soul from person to person in search of a better identity. At the core of his journey is his quest to be loved by Diana, a vivacious, powerful young woman. Fabian must decide whether it is better to live forever pretending to be someone else, or die for love as himself.

World premiere performances by Merola Opera of If I Were You are August 1, 3, 4 and 6 at Herbst Theatre. Purchase tickets here.

About Merola Opera Program

Widely regarded as the foremost opera training program for aspiring singers, coaches, and stage directors, the Merola Opera Program has served as a proving ground for hundreds of artists. Many Merola alumni are now among the most recognized names in the opera world. Every summer the program offers 29 young artists the rare opportunity of studying, coaching and participating in master classes with established professionals for twelve weeks. Participants also perform in two complete opera productions with orchestra and two summer concerts. The Merola Opera Program is a financially independent organization with a separate 501(c)3 which operates in close collaboration with the San Francisco Opera Center and San Francisco Opera.

About the Host

Veteran antitrust litigator Patrick Thompson has spent more than two decades representing clients facing federal and state claims involving price-fixing and monopolization. His experience includes advising clients in such industries as food and beverage, technology, energy, banking and financial services, hospitality and telecommunications. A respected leader in the legal community at the national, state and local levels, Patrick is a presidential appointee to the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Publishing Oversight. He also served on the Council of the ABA Antitrust Section and on the Executive Committee of the Antitrust, UCL Section of the State Bar of California. Thompson is a former chair of the board of trustees of Grace Cathedral, serves on the board of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and chairs the Finance Committee of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.

About The Forum

The Forum is a series of stimulating conversations about faith and ethics in relation to the important issues of our day. We invite inspiring and illustrious people to sit down for a real conversation with the Forum’s host, Malcolm Clemens Young, the dean of Grace Cathedral, and with you. Our guests range from artists, inventors and philosophers to pop culturists and elected officials, but the point of The Forum is singular: civil, sophisticated discourse that engages minds and hearts to think in new ways about the world.


Gresham Hall


Free and open to all


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