Sister Helen Prejean believes Chicago's Lyric Opera is the perfect place to present the opera "Dead Man Walking."

Featuring the largest stage in Chicago and outstanding acoustics, Lyric Opera definitely works as the ideal location for the notable opera, which debuted in 2000.

The opera highlights the tragic story told in Sister Prejean's book "Dead Man Walking," released in 1993. The book was made into a movie, directed by Tim Robbins, in 1996.

In "Dead Man Walking," Prejean talks about being a spiritual adviser to a murderer, who is on death row after killing a young couple, and her views about the need to abolish the death penalty.

"'Dead Man Walking' is really about a journey of redemption," Sister Prejean said during a recent interview. It's not only the journey of a man who's on death row but the life journey of a nun who's spiritually trying to do the right thing.

"It's a universal journey, in a way," Sister Prejean said. "Everybody knows hurt and about dealing with that." She added everyone also deals with loss and grief and knows the depth of those feelings and emotions.

Sister Prejean said the book and opera really go beyond just being about the murderer and her work to abolish the death penalty. The message digs much deeper into the hearts of people and questions how people treat one another.

Sister Prejean said during the making of the film "Dead Man Walking," director Tim Robbins kept saying "The nun is in over her head."

"Indeed I was," Sister Prejean said, adding that she didn't know anything about the court system, criminal justice, how people can be put to death or how to deal with a victim's family.

The opera "Dead Man Walking" features music by composer Jake Heggie and lyrics by librettist Terrence McNally. Prior to the opera being finished, Sister Prejean, who said she didn't know anything about opera, tossed a few ideas around with Heggie.

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"I got to talking to Jake Heggie before the opera was done ... and when I talked to Jake, I told him I had two requests," Sister Prejean said.

Her first request was that he make sure that "redemption" was at the center of the work and that it clearly came through.

"And I told him I didn't want any of that atonal, modern stuff where you can't hum a tune."

Sister Prejean said she was happy with the compositions in the opera as the score showcases a variety of styles. She added Heggie effectively got "at the heart of the conflicts" with his music.

Sister Prejean is currently touring the country with her latest book "River of Fire."

"It's like the prequel to 'Dead Man Walking,'" she said.

"River of Fire," she explained, has been in the works for seven years. It's a memoir of her life and spiritual journey.

FYI: "Dead Man Walking" continues to Nov. 22 at Lyric Opera, 20 N. Upper Wacker Drive, Chicago. Tickets range from $39 to $299. Call 312-827-5600 or visit lyricopera.org/deadman.

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Entertainment Editor/Features Reporter

Eloise is A&E Editor and a food, entertainment and features writer for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.