Opera Birmingham proudly announces the world premiere of TOUCH, a groundbreaking opera that offers an intimate glimpse into the extraordinary lives of Helen Keller and her devoted teacher and companion, Anne Sullivan. This production is set to transport audiences into the captivating world of these iconic women, shedding light on their remarkable achievements, their unbreakable bond and their transformative journey.
The world premiere of TOUCH will take place on Friday, Jan.19 at 7:30 P.M. in Birmingham, with a repeat performance on Sunday, Jan. 21 at 2:30 P.M.
The production marks a historic moment for both Opera Birmingham and the world of opera, and brings both national recognition and a profound spotlight to the state of Alabama. Produced and presented by Opera Birmingham, both performances will take place at RMT Theater’s Arts Campus (1600 3rd Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35233) in the Main Theatre.
Tickets for the world premiere of TOUCH are now available for purchase through Opera Birmingham’s website,, or by calling the Opera Birmingham box office at 205-322- 6737.
Opera Birmingham commissioned composer/librettist Carla Lucero, along with co-librettist Marianna Mott Newirth, to craft this powerful opera encapsulating the life of Helen Keller and the pivotal role Anne Sullivan played as her teacher and confidant. TOUCH delves into the untold aspects of Keller’s adult life, revealing the significant influence she and her teacher, Sullivan, had as advocates, humanitarians and activists. The opera’s title, TOUCH, is a poignant representation not only of Keller’s method of communication but also of the profound impact she left on the lives of countless others.
TOUCH picks up where the play “The Miracle Worker” concludes, providing a look into the complex relationships between Keller, Sullivan, John Macy (Sullivan’s husband) and Peter Fagan (Keller’s interpreter and star-crossed lover). The opera explores themes of disability, agency and advocacy, shedding light on Keller’s unyielding dedication to women’s suffrage, civil rights and disability rights. The opera captures the essence of Keller’s monumental achievements while revealing her personal struggles and unwavering determination.
Lucero has masterfully created a score that echoes the emotions and experiences of Keller and Sullivan, blending soaring melodies and poignant harmonies. With a mix of traditional operatic elements and contemporary influences, the music of TOUCH weaves a narrative that deeply resonates with the hearts of its audiences, immersing them in the inspiring journey of these historic figures.
This two-act chamber opera, spanning 90 minutes, is sung in English and interpreted in American Sign Language (ASL), with projected text above the stage. The production features three principal singing roles — Sullivan, Macy and Fagan — alongside an actor portraying Keller and a versatile ensemble of six singers representing Keller’s voice while also doubling in secondary roles.
TOUCH features Birmingham’s own Alie B. Gorrie portraying the spirited Keller. Michelle Drever will bring to life the complexities of the character of Sullivan with grace and authenticity. The cast is further enriched by the talents of Caleb Clark as Macy, who shares the heart of Sullivan, and Patrick Bessenbacher as Fagan, whose little-known role in the life of Keller provides an emotional dimension to her story. A chorus of singers, including Catherine Goode, gives voice to Keller’s thoughts and communication. Emily Pulley performs as Kate Keller, Sarah Coit as Polly Thompson, Hunter Enoch as Arthur Keller and David Morgans as James Keller. Under the baton of Mary Chun, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra will provide a sweeping musical backdrop that enhances the opera’s emotional impact. Guided by Director Sara Widzer, TOUCH promises to transport audiences.
Opera Birmingham is committed to presenting TOUCH as a testament to the enduring power of art to illuminate and celebrate the human spirit. Through this world premiere, the opera company seeks to entertain and inspire audiences, foster understanding and compassion and honor the indelible legacy of Keller and Sullivan.
“We are immensely honored to bring the incredible story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan to the stage in TOUCH,” said Keith A. Wolfe-Hughes, general director of Opera Birmingham. “Their story of resilience, perseverance and the profound impact they had on the world is nothing short of extraordinary. With this opera, we hope to honor their lives, celebrate their triumphs and raise awareness about the importance of accessibility and inclusivity for all.”
TOUCH underscores Opera Birmingham’s commitment to inclusivity and diverse storytelling, ensuring accessibility for all members of the community. The production actively includes low-vision and low- hearing artists both on and off the stage, making opera more accessible to a wide range of audiences. The company is dedicated to creating an immersive experience, offering ASL interpreters, Braille program notes, assisted listening devices and audio description services for patrons with varying needs.
As part of Opera Birmingham’s Birmingham Speaks series of community conversations inspired by opera, the premiere of TOUCH will be accompanied by panel discussions and roundtable conversations featuring the opera’s creators, cast, guest speakers well-versed in the life and work of Keller and representatives from organizations committed to serving the low-vision/low-hearing community.
Opera Birmingham’s TOUCH promises to be an extraordinary event that not only celebrates the legacy of Keller and Sullivan but also embodies the company’s commitment to artistic excellence, inclusivity and community engagement. The premiere will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on the world of opera and the cultural landscape of Alabama. Don’t miss this historic moment to witness a moving tribute to two remarkable women whose journey continues to inspire and touch hearts around the world.
Opera Birmingham’s commission of TOUCH was generously supported by UAB Callahan Eye Hospital & Clinic and UAB Medicine, with additional support from OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Women Composers program supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, Dr. and Mrs. Fred Elsas and Martin Jeiven. The production is funded, in part, by the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education. The opera underwent a workshop phase during Fall 2022 at the Seagle Festival in upstate New York, laying the groundwork for its upcoming world premiere.
For more information about the opera and its creators, please visit
Opera Birmingham is a leading regional opera company dedicated to presenting world-class opera experiences that inspire and engage audiences of all ages. Since its inception in 1955, Opera Birmingham has been at the forefront of artistic innovation, presenting both classic and contemporary operatic works while nurturing the growth of emerging talents in the industry. The company is committed to enriching the cultural life of the community through innovative programming, educational initiatives, and community outreach.