Ken Cazan’s evocative and efficient staging, John Baril and the festival orchestra’s spirited and well-shaded palette, and the Colorado Children’s Chorale underscore the emotional punch.
— Bob Bows ColoradoDrama.com July, 2014
The lines are a Stephen Sondheim-style puzzle of interruption and overlap that is put together with stunning precision. The show also has influences of Bernstein, Gershwin and, in one of its lighter moments, Elvis Presley. It is that mix of Broadway liveliness and cinematic intimacy that define this work (and many recent American operas). The music swells and stops to drive emotion the way a movie score does. At Central City, conductor John Baril let his orchestra play as if it were recording a soundtrack and it sounded melodramatic in all the right ways.
— Ray Mark Rinaldi Denver Post July, 2014
Saturday night’s opening of Jake Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking,” performed with the composer in attendance, was an emotionally shattering but spiritually edifying experience of a kind that is rarely repeated. CCO Music Director John Baril leads the orchestra through Heggie’s dense but melodius score, making sure that the music’s difficulty does not draw attention to itself or away from the story and its characters. Although it sounds like a modern opera, no audience member will leave without subconsciously humming some tune or other, possibly the unforgettable hymn “He Will Gather Us Around,” maybe the heaving descents of the parents’ laments, or even the restless five-note figures that open the opera and constantly return.
— Kelly Dean Hansen The Boulder Daily Camera July, 2014
Heggie’s score speaks volumes on its own, employing strains of Gershwin-reminiscent jazz and blues, or angular lines punctuating speech-like declamation. It was all expertly delivered with effective momentum under the baton of John Baril. Each act culminated in a multi-layered wall of sound (made more palpable in the intimate Central City Opera House) which was enough to rock every cell of my being.
— Carol Perry OPERAGASM July, 2014
Much of the musical interest is in the orchestra, which moves along underlining dramatic sections and offering snatches of jazz rhythm and perhaps zydeco, which itself is an integration of blues, jazz, waltz and other forms. John Baril conducted an obviouly committed orchestra with an intensity that drove the story on.
— Charles Jernigan Jernigan’s Opera Journal/Opera Pronto July, 2014
No one was able to sit comfortably back in their seat, avoiding the searing energy of this opening night performance. It started with the John Baril-lead orchestra. Heggie composed an ever-present instrumental fabric, kind of a sonic canvas, to place his drama upon. He used traditional and modern harmonic language to match the drama as it unfolded – all accomplished without any sense of contrivance. The orchestra accepted its role with attentiveness and intensity.
— David Sckolnik Colorado Springs Gazette July, 2014
Music Director John Baril and Central City’s fine pit orchestra vividly realized Heggie’s sweeping, richly orchestrated score, tinged at times with evocative spirituals and popular music.
— Kyle MacMillan Opera News September, 2014
John Baril conducted with a sure hand, expertly drawing out the colour and constantly shifting dynamics of Heggie’s score.
— Marc Shulgold Opera September, 2014