Transformations, a chamber opera by American composer Conrad Susa crafted from Anne Sexton’s 1971 book of the same name, runs Friday, Feb. 17 through Sunday, Feb. 19 at CCM’s Cohen Family Studio Theater. The opera presents ten of Sexton’s confessional and somewhat sardonic poems that are based on stories by the Brothers Grimm, including Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel and Briar Rose.
Admission is free but reservations are required; tickets become available at noon on Monday, Feb. 13 through the CCM Box Office. Transformations is directed by Assistant Professor Emma Griffin and conducted by Avishay Shalom, CCM graduate orchestral conducting student.
Transformations contains adult themes and is not recommend for young audiences. Sexton struggled with mental illness for most of her life, which culminated in her suicide in 1974. Her work explores mature themes of sexuality, both consensual and imposed, and mental illness, including its traumatic causes and its public reception.
“There are many surprising moments in this show, but I think the most unanticipated thing about them is the grace with which they come together as a whole, even though some sections contain events that are unbelievable or uncomfortable,” says Transformations dramaturg Hope Rice, a senior art history student at UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. “No surprising moment in this show is gratuitous; it really was Sexton’s experience, and everything comes together in the end with purpose.”
While the time and place of the action in Transformations are unspecified, many productions present it in the American 1970s, in part because of the many pop culture references scattered throughout the libretto. CCM’s production does the same, although it also contains stylistic elements from present day.
“The world of the play was born in the 1970s, but, like fairytales, it contains themes that are relevant to the human condition in any time period,” Rice says. “Transformations is visceral because its time and place are not specified.”
It is very much a modern opera in terms of the score, which uses a significant amount of dissonance, but not necessarily to jarring effect. The rhythms that composer Conrad Susa uses are very much influenced by pop culture, according to Transformations conductor Avishay Shalom.
“In the opera you will find grooves like tango, samba, blues and many more that frame the dissonant harmonies within the traditional and familiar grooves,” Shalom says. “Anne Sexton’s world of metaphors is eclectic and full of references. Susa’s approach to setting her text celebrates Sexton’s unique voice and matches her wide-ranging imagination with his use of pitch, harmony and rhythm.”
The opera calls for eight singers and each play at least six roles. There is also an Anne Sexton character who guides the action throughout the opera and experiences her own transformation along the way.
“While the singers in this show are characters from fairytales, like princesses, dwarves or talking mirrors, they all speak to experiences that many audience members may be able to relate to,” Rice said. “Like fairytales, Sexton’s poetry is born out of reality but contains elements of myths in order to speak to a broad audience.”
This production contains adult themes and is not recommend for young audiences.
Caitlin Gotimer*, Annie Barr** as Anne Sexton
Ashley Fabian as Green Cowboy Boots
Eleni Antonia Franck as Woman with Black Hair
Thomas J. Capobianco as Blonde Man with Beard
Pedro André Arroyo as Headphones
John Tibbetts as Red Hat
Benjamin Lee as White T-shirt
Jacob Kincade as Tall Man with Beard
* Feb. 17 and 19
** Feb. 18
8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17
8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18
2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19
Cohen Family Studio Theater, CCM Village
University of Cincinnati
Admission is free. Reservations are required. Tickets become available at noon on Monday, Feb. 13. Please visit the CCM Box Office or call 513-556-4183 to reserve. Limit two tickets per order.
Parking and Directions
Parking is available in the CCM Garage (located at the base of Corry Boulevard off Jefferson Avenue) and additional garages throughout the UC campus. Please visit uc.edu/parking for information on parking rates.
For detailed maps and directions, please visit uc.edu/visitors. Additional parking is available off-campus at the U Square complex on Calhoun Street and other neighboring lots.
For directions to CCM Village, visit ccm.uc.edu/about/directions.
Opera Department Sponsor: Mr. & Mrs. Edward S. Rosenthal
Opera Production Sponsor: Genevieve Smith
Season Presenting Sponsor: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation