Friday, January 31, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 2, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah
One of the most popular American operas, Susannah is the tale of an innocent Tennessee mountain girl who is accused of sinful behavior by the church-going elders of the town. Written in the 1950s the opera is surprisingly modern in its treatment of women’s empowerment. Carlisle Floyd wrote this opera while a professor at Florida State University and our cast will feature a member of the original cast! Mr. Floyd will be in residence the week prior to the performances and events featuring him will be announced at a later date.
The opera stars Susan Hellman as Susannah, Todd Donovan as Olin Blitch, Scott Wichael as Little Bat, and Anthony Webb as Sam. Susan Hellman and Todd Donovan, both of whom have chosen to live in St. Petersburg, have impressive career credits throughout the country. Scott Wichael is Kansas City based but has also performed widely. Anthony Webb was hailed as a “nimble” young tenor by the New York Times.
About Carlisle Floyd: American composer Carlisle Floyd was born in 1926 in Latta, South Carolina. The son of a Methodist minister, he based many of his works on themes from the South. His best known opera, Susannah (1955), is based on a story from the Apocrypha transferred to contemporary rural Tennessee and written in a Southern dialect.
In 1943, Floyd studied piano at Converse College under Ernst Bacon. When Bacon accepted a position at Syracuse University, in New York, Floyd followed him there, where he received a Bachelor of Music in 1946. The following year, Floyd became part of the piano faculty at Florida State University, in Tallahassee. He was to remain there for thirty years, eventually becoming Professor of Composition. He received a master’s degree in 1949 from Syracuse.
While at FSU, Floyd gradually became interested in composition. His first opera was Slow Dusk, to his own libretto (as was to remain his custom), and was produced at Syracuse in 1949. His next opera, The Fugitives, was seen at Tallahassee in 1951, but was then withdrawn.
His third opera was to be Floyd’s greatest success: Susannah. It was first heard at Florida State, in February 1955, with Phyllis Curtin in the title role, and Mack Harrell as the Reverend Olin Blitch. The following year, the opera was given at the New York City Opera, with Curtin and Norman Treigle (in his first great success) as Blitch, with Erich Leinsdorf conducting. After receiving much acclaim, a City Opera production (directed by Frank Corsaro) was taken to the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, with Curtin, Treigle and Richard Cassilly. It was first presented at the Metropolitan Opera in 1999 with Renee Fleming as the star.
In 1976, Floyd co-founded, with David Gockley, the Houston Opera Studio, a training program administered by the Houston Grand Opera for outstanding young professional singers and repertory coaches. Between 1976 and 1996, he held the M.D. Anderson Professorship at the University of Houston School of Music. The Houston Grand Opera has announced that a new opera by Floyd, Kynaston, after the 17th-century actor, Edward Kynaston will be premiered in a future season. Floyd has been honored by, among others, the National Endowment for the Arts, received the National Medal of Arts from the White House, inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and received the 2010 Anton Coppola Excellence in the Arts Award from Opera Tampa.
While Susannah is Floyd’s most popular opera and has been produced over 250 times, St. Petersburg Opera’s production will be the first in the Tampa Bay area.
Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave., St. Petersburg 33701 Tickets $21.50 to $64.50, available at 727-823-2040 or www.stpeteopera.org.