Composer: Carlisle Floyd
Librettist: Carlisle Floyd
Other Artistic Personnel: Lynn Orr (Stage Director)
Karl Kuersteiner (Conductor)
Franklin Adams (Set Designer)
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)
Work Web Site:
Premiere Date: February 24, 1956
Producing Company: The Theatre Guild
Description: 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
Character List (Major): Susannah Polk (s)
Sam Polk, her brother (t)
Olin Blitch, an evangelist (b-bar)
Character List (Minor): Little Bat McLean (t)
Elder McLean (bar)
Elder Gleaton (t)
Elder Hayes (t)
Elder Ott (bar)
Mrs. McLean (mz)
Mrs. Gleaton (s)
Mrs. Hayes (s)
Mrs. Ott (contralto)
Reviews: The Washington Post, Philip Kennicott, 11/8/1999; The Austin Chronicle, Michael Kellerman, 4/25/2008; BachTrack, 5/1/2009;
Video Clip:
Length: 01:45
Total Acts: 2
Chorus: People of New Hope Valley (Singers & Dancers)
Orchestration: 2 fl(II=picc), 2 ob(II=corA), 2 cl(II=bcl), 2 bsn(II=dbn) - 4 hrn, 2 tpt, 3 tbn, 1 tba - timp.perc:SD/cyms/ gong/xyl - cel - harp - strings
Contact: Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.
E-mail Address:
Phone: 212-358-5300
Publisher Web Site:
The Opera Fund Awardee Information
Award Category: 2013 Robert L.B. Tobin Directo
Project Name: Susannah
Awardee: Mo Zhou
Director: Mo Zhou
Designer: Set Designer: Tim Brown, Costume Designer: Lisa Lo
Schedule of Performances Listings
Susannah (Floyd)
Friday, February 13, 2015 - Toledo Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Saturday, September 6, 2014 - San Francisco Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Friday, March 16, 2012 - Florentine Opera Company
Susannah (Floyd)
Saturday, July 3, 2010 - Des Moines Metro Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Thursday, April 19, 2007 - Arizona Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Friday, November 10, 2006 - Virginia Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Friday, April 8, 2005 - Fargo-Moorhead Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Friday, February 11, 2005 - Hawaii Opera Theatre
Susannah (Floyd)
Friday, February 4, 2005 - Opera Columbus
Susannah (Floyd)
Friday, July 23, 2004 - Chautauqua Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Friday, February 20, 2004 - Opera Southwest
Susannah (Floyd)
Saturday, October 11, 2003 - Opera Philadelphia
Susannah (Floyd)
Sunday, July 6, 2003 - Opera Saratoga
Susannah (Floyd)
Monday, September 30, 2002 - Lyric Opera of Chicago
Susannah (Floyd)
Friday, March 8, 2002 - Eugene Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Friday, March 1, 2002 - Palm Beach Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Saturday, January 26, 2002 - Shreveport Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Saturday, April 28, 2001 - Toledo Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Thursday, April 19, 2001 - Opera Carolina
Susannah (Floyd)
Saturday, January 27, 2001 - Calgary Opera Association
Susannah (Floyd)
Thursday, November 2, 2000 - Fort Worth Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Friday, March 10, 2000 - Indianapolis Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Saturday, February 5, 2000 - Kentucky Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Friday, January 21, 2000 - Nashville Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Saturday, November 20, 1999 - Opera Ontario, Inc.
Susannah (Floyd)
Saturday, July 24, 1999 - Ash Lawn Opera Festival
Susannah (Floyd)
Thursday, April 22, 1999 - Opéra de Montréal
Susannah (Floyd)
Wednesday, March 31, 1999 - Metropolitan Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Wednesday, April 22, 1998 - Augusta Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Friday, March 27, 1998 - Springfield Regional Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Saturday, March 21, 1998 - Chattanooga Symphony
Susannah (Floyd)
Saturday, July 12, 1997 - Central City Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Saturday, February 1, 1997 - Vancouver New Music
Susannah (Floyd)
Wednesday, May 15, 1996 - Opera Theater of Pittsburgh
Susannah (Floyd)
Thursday, May 2, 1996 - Houston Grand Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Saturday, March 11, 1995 - Dayton Opera
Susannah (Floyd)
Thursday, February 10, 1994 - University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
Susannah (Floyd)
Saturday, October 9, 1993 - Lyric Opera of Chicago
Susannah (Floyd)
Saturday, September 28, 1991 - Lyric Opera of Kansas City
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