"Dead Man Walking" will come up singing for the San Francisco Opera in the company's 2000-2001 season. Lotfi Mansouri, the general director of the San Francisco Opera, announced Wednesday that he had commissioned playwright Terrence McNally and composer Jake Heggie to create an opera based on Sister Helen Prejean's award-winning 1993 book about the capital punishment system.

In 1995, the book was adapted for the screen. Susan Sarandon's portrayal of Sister Helen won her an Academy Award for best actress.The "Dead Man Walking" opera project is part of Mansouri's "Pacific Visions" program for replenishing the opera repertory. Plans call for Patrick Summers to conduct the premiere and for mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade to sing the principal role, the inmate's mother.