KU School of Music to perform 2 modern operas examining sexual assault, transgender identity

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A University of Kansas School of Music graduate will see part of her dissertation project come to life on Tuesday as part of a virtual double-bill feature through the Lied Center of Kansas.

Bonnie McLarty composed the music to “Snow Angel” (with words by Wyatt Townley) as part of her dissertation, which explores the reclamation of personal identity and agency following a sexual assault of the female protagonist, the school said in a press release.

The second performance Tuesday is called “As One,” composed by Laura Kaminsky (with words by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed). That opera traces the life experiences of a transgender protagonist named Hannah.

The topics of the two-opera performances were chosen deliberately by Carolyn Watson, the director of orchestral activities, in response to issues heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In addition to a long-overdue reckoning with structures of systemic racism, colleges throughout the nation are also grappling with an epidemic of sexual assault, harassment and violence against women,” Watson said in the press release. “The two works selected explore this issue along with the discrimination and misogyny so often suffered by women and the LGBTQIA community more generally.”

Both operas contain mature subject matter, and as such, viewer discretion is advised. A representative from KU’s on-campus Counseling and Psychological Services will be available virtually during the performance to support students who may find themselves emotionally affected.

Any community members who need support can contact Headquarters Counseling Center, which provides 24/7 services free of charge, the School of Music said.

Despite the tough topics, “Snow Angel” and “As One” have allowed the School of Music to bolster its relationships with members of the communities who are represented in the two productions, such as Lily DeSett, who helped produce “As One.”

“Working on ‘As One’ has been the honor of a lifetime,” DeSett said in the press release. “I remember hearing about this opera back in a time when I was too scared to live my life authentically, as I am now, and it gave me hope. I’m so glad that I was able to be a part of the telling of this story, a story that needs to be heard.”

Due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the performances will be streamed free of charge on the Lied Center of Kansas website, which can be found here. Tuesday’s show will start at 7:30 p.m.

KU School of Music Event art for “Snow Angel” and “As One”
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