Annapolis Opera will present Carlisle Floyd’s tragic American opera, “Susannah,” on Friday, March 13 (7:30pm), and Sunday, March 15 (3:00pm), as well as an Opera Insight Series preceding the performances. Both performances and programs will be held at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, located at 801 Chase Street in Annapolis.
Based on the biblical story “Susannah and the Elders,” the 1954 opera is set in rural Tennessee and is rich with Appalachian folk melodies. Its plot centers around a beautiful and virtuous 18-year-old girl who has inadvertently incited the lust of her church elders, who accuse her of being a seductress and turn the entire town against her. When the new pastor, Reverend Blitch, urges her to repent her alleged sins, she refuses, inflaming the reverend’s own desires – with disastrous consequences. While the opera clearly connects to the McCarthy era in which it was written, its themes of men in power behaving badly and rumors trumping facts are as relevant as ever.
Adding to its importance, the production will be the last for retiring artistic director Ronald Gretz and stage director Braxton Peters, who have served the company for 37 and 27 years, respectively.
“We are extremely excited to bring ‘Susannah’ to the stage as it is the most performed American opera, second only to ‘Porgy and Bess,’” said Kathy Swekel, general director at Annapolis Opera. “We believe that the Opera Insight Series leading up to the performances will allow audience members to gain a deeper look into this uniquely American work and understand why it is still relevant to us today. Because of these timely themes, it’s especially apt to present this opera during both Women’s History Month and Maryland’s declared Year of the Woman.”
The Opera Insight Series lectures explore the stories behind “Susannah,” its cultural and historical context, as well as the musical, dramatic and vocal challenges of the performance. The series will be led by Maestro Gretz; Jeff Place, curator and senior archivist for the Smithsonian Institution’s Ralph Rinzler Folklife collections; and opera authority Nancie Kennedy, former faculty at the Eastman School of Music and the Peabody Conservatory and Annapolis Opera advisory board member. The Opera Insight Series is free to the public. Seating is limited and reservations are recommended and can be made online or by contacting the opera office at 410-267-8135.
Tickets for both performances, links to RSVP for each Opera Insight Series date, and cast information can be found at www.annapolisopera.org/susannah.