Death of an American opera composer

Death of an American opera composer


norman lebrecht

November 22, 2013

We have been informed by his executor that Conrad Susa, composer of two successful operas, died yesterday at the age of 78.

Transformations, his setting of poems by Anne Sexton, is one of the most widely seen US opera in modern times. Among many revivals it was staged at the Wexford Festival in 2006.

The Dangerous Liaisons was produced by San Francisco Opera in 1994 with  Thomas HampsonFrederica von Stade andRenée Fleming in the cast. It has since been revived at Washington Opera.

Conrad was chair of the composition department at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

We send sympathies to his loved ones.

conrad susa


  • Heather Michele Meyer says:

    Thank you for posting this. Conrad was one of my favorite teachers at the SF Conservatory, and I never even studied composition. I still remember very fondly his Dramatic Structures in Opera classes, where I came to know, love, and more fully understand pieces such as Peter Grimes and Daphne. He will be very much missed.

  • MWnyc says:

    Transformations is a terrific piece. In fact, it’s one I would recommend (providing one could find a way to see it) to people who enjoy live theater but are new to or put off by opera.

    (Especially if those people are put off by the idea of the whole people-bellowing-at-each-other-in-a-foreign-language-in-a-3,000-seat-auditorium thing.)

    If one of my little pipe dreams were ever to come true – smaller, less-expensive-to-operate chamber opera companies becoming commonplace in U.S. cities, or regional opera companies doing a couple of chamber operas a year in place of one of their big productions of standard rep** – I think Transformations could be a repertory cornerstone.

    There are loads of worthwhile chamber operas that have been written in the last 40 years or so, and many of them are in English, which I think is crucial for reaching the non-opera-going audience.

    RIP Conrad Susa

    ** Opera Philadelphia has actually been moving in that direction for the past few seasons, with some real success.

  • Stephen says:

    I participated in the Aspen Music Festival’s production of Transformations in 1984 and gained a deep appreciation for both Susa and Sexton through that experience. RIP Conrad Susa.

  • Cheryl Susa says:

    Rest in peace Conrad. Your cousins will truly miss you.