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Learn more about Susannah

Carlisle Floyd's publisher Boosey and Hawkes writes

“With a commitment that rivals Smetana’s in Bohemia or Britten’s in Britain, [Floyd] has striven to create a national repertory … He has learned the international language of successful opera in order to speak it in his own accents and to enrich it with the musical and vernacular idioms of his own country.” 

Historical Peformances

Renée Fleming (Susannah), Susannah, Lyric Opera of Chicago, 1993.

“Ain’t it a Pretty Night?”


Patricia Racette (Susannah), Susannah, San Francisco Opera, 2014. Photo by Cory Weaver

“The Trees on the Mountains”


Norman Treigle (Olin Blitch), Susannah, New York City Opera, 1971. Photo copyright Beth Bergman

Act II “Revival Meeting”

A Guide to Susannah

Margaret Cormier pre-opera chat

Some Highlights

  • Carlisle Floyd wrote Susannah while he was a professor at Florida State University. It received its premiere performance at Florida State University’s Ruby Diamond Auditorium February 24, 1955.

  • Susannah is based on the apocryphal tale of ‘Susanna and the Elders' in the Book of Daniel and has attracted many artistic depictions Wikipedia has more.

  • Famous Susannahs include Phyllis Curtin, Renée Fleming, and Patricia Racette.

  • Susannah was staged at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels.

  • Susannah was one of the first operas in the 20th century to explore feminist themes.

  • Written during the McCarthy era Carlisle Floyd describes the atmosphere at that time.

"At Florida State an accusation was tantamount to guilt. We faculty had to sign a pledge of loyalty or lose our jobs. It affected me and informed me emotionally. And there it is in the opera. But I can’t say I put it there.”

  • Set in the heart of rural Tennessee, Susannah paints a vivid picture of small-town life and the simmering tensions beneath the surface.The characters demonstrate values that were and are important to these communities  - religion, community, family. It is those values that drive the dramatic action.

  • The “revival” scene in Act 2 was influenced by memories and experiences from the childhood of the composer, whose father was a rural preacher.

For their 2019 production of Susannah, Manitoba Opera put together a comprehensive guide which we gratefully share in part with you.

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