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Composer Conrad Susa dies at 78

Posted by: Graydon Royce under Classical, People Updated: November 26, 2013 - 10:59 AM



Composer Conrad Susa, whose work was brought to life on several occasions in the Twin Cities, has died in San Francisco. Susa, who was 78, was a professor of composition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Susa's best known opera is "Transformations," which had its premiere with the Minnesota Opera in 1973. Based on 10 poems from a book by Anne Sexton, the work was conducted by Philip Brunelle and directed by Wesley Balk. The poems re-imagined Grimm's fairy tales. Susa wrote the opera as a chamber piece. It has been frequently produced around the country.

"I have fond memories of conducting the premiere, and all the wildness that went along with his last-minute writing and having Anne Sexton here -- but it was magical," Brunelle wrote in an e-mail.

Susa also wrote pieces for VocalEssence and Plymouth Church, and another opera, "Black River: A Wisconsin Idyll," which was commissioned by Minnesota Opera for a 1975 debut. The libretto by Richard Street was inspired by the book "Wisconsin Death Trip."

"I will always remember the first time he came to Minneapolis and stayed with us, having morning pillow fights wiith the kids," Brunelle wrote. "Conrad was brilliant, humorous and irascible."

With the San Francisco Opera, Susa wrote "The Dangerous Liaisons," which had its premiere in 1994 with a cast that included Thomas Hampson and Renee Fleming.

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