SOMERVILLE — Thirteen years after its historic premiere at the San Francisco Opera, Jake Heggie’s inspirational “Dead Man Walking” finally arrived in New England this weekend. And it wasn’t a venerable musical organization that dared to stage a modern classic already produced more than 30 times elsewhere. Instead, it was the upstart Boston Opera Collaborative, only seven seasons old, that seized the opportunity. Four performances in the appropriately “alternative” Somerville Theatre had two different casts alternating in the four leading roles.
In most respects, BOC rose admirably to the challenge. Stage director David Gram, music director and conductor Michael Sakir, and a large production team made shrewd use of mini-mal scenery and the fresh talent of emerging young singers to follow Sister Helen Prejean’s spiritual journey with Louisiana death row inmateJoseph De Rocher. They told the dark story of his final tortured days (poetically adapted by Terrence McNally from Prejean’s book) with simplicity, compassion, and confident musicality.