ROCHESTER, NY — Small-town Tennessee comes to the Eastman Theatre (60 Gibbs St.) this spring as Eastman Opera Theatre presents Carlisle Floyd’s American classic Susannah. Performances of the opera will be at 8 p.m., Thursday, April 1, through Saturday, April 3, and at 2 p.m., Sunday,
Susannah is the compelling tale of an attractive young woman in rural Tennessee who becomes a victim of the lies, betrayal, and intolerance of a narrow-minded town. Based on the apocryphal biblical book of Susannah, the story unfolds around Susannah’s continued rejection by the fanatical community in which she lives. The drama escalates as Susannah is falsely accused of immoral behavior when spotted bathing in the creek, and is subsequently pursued by the hypocritical Reverend Olin Blitch. Susannah is a passionate story culminating in an inevitable tragic ending for the beautiful Susannah, her protective alcoholic brother Sam Polk, and the Reverend Olin Blitch.
Premiered at Florida State University in 1955 and recently produced at the Metropolitan Opera with Renée Fleming in the title role, Susannah continues to be one of the most celebrated and performed American operas of the second half of the 20th century, according to Steven Daigle, dramatic director of Eastman Opera Theatre. “It combines concise drama and an inviting musical language with a setting that transports its audience to a time and place that is distinctly ‘Americana’,” he said. “The tragic story that unfolds is as relevant today as it was to the political turmoil that defined the nation during its premiere in the 1950s.”
Susannah has helped Floyd achieve international prominence as an opera composer and librettist. “He is perhaps the most important and prolific contributor to American opera in the past 50 years,” says Benton Hess, music director and distinguished professor of voice at Eastman.
The Eastman production, set in the 1940s, features two alternating casts of Eastman voice students (and a chorus of 20) accompanied by the Eastman Philharmonia, conducted by Hess. Leading the cast are Tiffany Blake and Sonia Rodriguez Bermejo as Susannah; Mark Daniels and Grant Knox as Sam Polk; Ted Christopher and JJ Hudson as Olin Blitch; Pablo Bustos and Dan Hinson as Little Bat McLean; Jonathan Michie and Carl DuPont as Elder McLean; Virgil Hartinger and Allen Stowe as Elder Gleaton; Sam Haddad and Tim Schmidt as Elder Ott; Kevin Park as Elder Hayes; Yvonne Douthat and Ann Marie MacFarlane as Mrs. McLean; Anna Elder and Laura Puzio as Mrs. Hayes; Heidi Melton and Annamarie Zmolek as Mrs. Gleaton; and Carolyn Ramzy and Theresa Remick as Mrs. Ott.
General admission tickets are $15, with discounts available to University of Rochester students, faculty, and staff. They are available in person at the Ticket Express Box Office (875 E. Main St. in the Auditorium Theatre), by phone at 232-1900, or online at www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets also may be purchased at the Eastman School Box Office located in the Main Hall of the School at 26 Gibbs St. (weekdays, noon-5 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.). Any unsold tickets may be purchased at the theatre box office one hour prior to the start of each performance.
In addition, a Susannah pre-performance event sponsored by the Friends of Eastman Opera (FEO) and featuring composer Carlisle Floyd will be held Thursday, April 1, at Max of Eastman Place (25 Gibbs St.). The event, which is open to the public, begins with a cash bar at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 p.m. and a talk by Floyd at 6:45 p.m. Tickets for dinner and the opera are $75, and reservations are required. They can be made by calling 274-1040.
The FEO also will sponsor pre-performance talks on Friday, April 2, and Saturday, April 3, at 7 p.m. in the private dining room of Max of Eastman Place. These two talks, featuring Russell Miller from Eastman’s voice department, are free and open to the public, but reservations are requested at 274-1040.
Note to editors : Steven Daigle and Benton Hess are available for interviews.