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Composer:Carlisle Sessions Floyd
Librettist:Carlisle Floyd
In New Hope Valley, Tennessee, Susannah – a pretty and well-mannered young woman of humble origins – is faced with hostility from her church community. The opera opens at a square dance given by her church; a group of wives, jealous of Susannah’s beauty and the attention it brings from their husbands, are gossiping about her. Mrs. McLean, one of the wives, states that you can’t expect more from someone who was raised by her drunken brother. Finally, the Reverend Olin Blitch, newly arrived to lead the congregation, enters and asks Susannah to dance despite the gossip. Later that evening, Susannah tells her admirer Little Bat – son of Mrs. McLean and her husband, an elder of the church – about the dance; Little Bat leaves abruptly once her brother Sam returns from hunting.

The next morning Susannah is innocently bathing naked in the creek near her home; she is discovered by the elders, who are searching for a baptismal stream. They conceal their lust with outrage and tell the community of her wickedness. Susannah arrives at a church dinner that evening and is sent away, much to her confusion. Later, as she is pondering why she has been shunned, Little Bat tells her that the elders have denounced her for bathing in the nude, and admits that he was coerced into saying she seduced him.

Sam informs Susannah that she must make a public confession in order to be absolved. Though she claims she has nothing to confess, she goes to the service where Olin Blitch is preaching. When she is singled out to come forward, she runs away. Once the service has ended, Reverend Blitch goes to Susannah’s house and offers to pray for her soul; upon discovering that her brother is away, Blitch rapes her.

The next day Blitch, having discovered that Susannah was a virgin, comes to her and begs for forgiveness. He throws herself at Susannah’s mercy, but she refuses to forgive him. When Susannah tells Sam the story he threatens to kill Blitch; he leaves for the baptismal service, carrying his shotgun. Convinced that Susannah led her brother to murder, the community heads to her house to drive her out of the valley. However, Little Bat has warned her in advance, and when the vigilantes arrive she is waiting with a shotgun. They retreat, but she has effectively severed her ties with the community and her world.

Courtesy of Boosey & Hawkes

Click company name to view productions details.
Opera Theatre of Saint LouisSusannah6/10/2023 - 6/24/2023
Mission OperaSusannah6/9/2023 - 6/10/2023
Marble City OperaSusannah6/8/2023 - 6/10/2023
Opera Fort CollinsSusannah4/28/2023 - 4/30/2023
Wichita Grand OperaSusannah11/11/2022 - 11/13/2022
Wolf Trap Opera CompanySusannah8/12/2022 - 8/20/2022
Manitoba OperaSusannah11/23/2019 - 11/29/2019
The Lighthouse Opera CompanySusannah9/13/2018 - 9/18/2018
Nashville OperaSusannah4/6/2018 - 4/8/2018
Opera in the OzarksSusannah6/24/2017 - 6/24/2017
Opera RoanokeSusannah4/28/2017 - 4/30/2017
Toledo OperaSusannah2/13/2015 - 2/15/2015
San Francisco OperaSusannah9/9/2014 - 9/21/2014
Opera IdahoSusannah5/17/2013 - 5/19/2013
Florentine Opera CompanySusannah3/3/2012 - 3/18/2012
Des Moines Metro OperaSusannah7/7/2010 - 7/16/2010
Opera PacificSusannah5/5/2008 - 5/24/2008
Arizona OperaSusannah4/4/2007 - 4/29/2007
Virginia OperaSusannah11/11/2006 - 12/12/2006
Boheme Opera New JerseySusannah4/1/2006 - 4/30/2006
Orlando OperaSusannah11/1/2005 - 11/21/2005
Fargo-Moorhead OperaSusannah4/1/2005 - 4/10/2005
Opera ColumbusSusannah2/1/2005 - 2/6/2005
Hawai'i Opera TheatreSusannah2/1/2005 - 2/15/2005
Chautauqua OperaSusannah7/1/2004 - 7/26/2004
Opera SouthwestSusannah2/1/2004 - 2/22/2004
Opera SaratogaSusannah7/7/2003 - 7/13/2003
Lyric Opera of ChicagoSusannah9/9/2002 - 10/28/2002
Eugene OperaSusannah3/3/2002 - 3/10/2002
Palm Beach OperaSusannah3/2/2002 - 3/4/2002
Shreveport OperaSusannah1/26/2002 - 1/26/2002
Utah Festival OperaSusannah7/7/2001 - 7/27/2001
Toledo OperaSusannah4/28/2001 - 5/6/2001
Opera CarolinaSusannah4/4/2001 - 4/22/2001
Calgary Opera AssociationSusannah1/1/2001 - 2/2/2001
Fort Worth OperaSusannah11/3/2000 - 11/11/2000
Indianapolis OperaSusannah3/3/2000 - 3/12/2000
Connecticut OperaSusannah3/3/2000 - 3/11/2000
Kentucky OperaSusannah2/2/2000 - 2/13/2000
Nashville OperaSusannah1/1/2000 - 1/25/2000
Opera Ontario, Inc.Susannah11/11/1999 - 11/26/1999
Opera North (U.S.)Susannah8/8/1999 - 8/28/1999
Charlottesville OperaSusannah7/7/1999 - 8/15/1999
Opéra de MontréalSusannah4/4/1999 - 4/26/1999
Metropolitan OperaSusannah3/31/1999 - 4/22/1999
Augusta OperaSusannah4/4/1998 - 4/25/1998
Chattanooga SymphonySusannah3/21/1998 - 3/21/1998
Ozarks Lyric OperaSusannah3/3/1998 - 3/30/1998
Central City OperaSusannah7/7/1997 - 8/8/1997
Vancouver New MusicSusannah2/2/1997 - 2/10/1997
Pittsburgh Festival OperaSusannah5/5/1996 - 5/18/1996
Houston Grand OperaSusannah5/1/1996 - 5/12/1996
Baltimore Opera CompanySusannah7/1/1995 - 7/16/1995
Dayton Performing Arts Alliance Susannah3/1/1995 - 3/19/1995
University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of MusicSusannah2/1/1994 - 2/13/1994
Lyric Opera of ChicagoSusannah10/1/1993 - 11/11/1993
Berkshire Opera CompanySusannah7/1/1993 - 7/24/1993
Lyric Opera of Kansas CitySusannah9/1/1991 - 10/1/1991

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Title Information

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Approximate Runtime (hh:mm)

Number of Acts

Original Cast
Phyllis Curtin (Susannah)
Mack Harrell (Blitch)
Walter James (Sam)
Eb Thomas (Little Bat)
Harrison Fisher (Elder McLean)
Dayton Smith (Elder Hayes)
Lee Liming (Elder Ott)
Kenneth Nelson (Elder Gleaton)
Martha Kay Willis (Mrs. McLean)
Joan Nichly (Mrs. Hayes)
Bette Jo Armstrong (Mrs. Ott)
Catherine Murphey (Mrs. Gleaton)

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