(Boston, MA) – Five decades after its premiere, the Boston University School of Music and School of Theatre will produce the classic American opera Susannah with composer and librettist Carlisle Floyd and original soprano Phyllis Curtin in residence. Longtime artistic collaborators Floyd and Curtin will reunite for portions of the rehearsal period, and will also hold pre-show discussions before the first two performances. Susannah runs April 15-18 on the mainstage of the Boston University Theatre and features conductor William Lumpkin, stage director Sharon Daniels, singers from the School of Music Opera Institute and vocal program, and accompaniment by the BU Chamber Orchestra. The production is designed by students from the School of Theatre and executed by Huntington Theatre Company staff.
Curtin, who premiered the title role in Susannah in 1955 and currently serves as Dean Emerita of the BU College of Fine Arts, was described in a 1963 Life magazine profile as “The country’s best and busiest singer of contemporary music, [who] has premiered more new operas than any American soprano going, and has had 53 works written expressly for her.” Besides premiering and championing multiple works by Floyd, Curtin has also premiered works by Darius Milhaud, Benjamin Britten, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Alberto Ginastera, among others.
Daniels, stage director of Susannah and Director of The Opera Institute at Boston University, twice performed the title role in Susannah with the composer directing. Of this production, Daniels explains, “I cannot think of an event that has brought more profound excitement to our faculty and singers at the Opera Institute. It would be enough that we are bringing the legendary American opera composer Carlisle Floyd to campus to share his insights and his process with us as we prepare perhaps his most famous and beloved music drama Susannah. Add to that the presence of our treasured Dean Emerita soprano Phyllis Curtin, who has a history with this opera and an ongoing relationship with The Opera Institute, and this production becomes a once- in-a-lifetime experience for our students.” She continues, “The opera, intentionally called a ‘musical drama’ by the composer, is a heart-wrenching story with compelling characters perfect for the young singing actor. It employs haunting folk and hymn-like melodies we feel we already know, along with a sumptuous orchestral texture that is uniquely American in style.”
Susannah is one of the most popular and often-performed American operas, second only to George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Set in a small Appalachian community in 1950s Tennessee, Susannah is the timeless story of the tragic consequences of runaway suspicion and gossip, fanned by religious zeal. While it is sometimes speculated that Floyd wrote the opera to comment on the ongoing phenomenon of McCarthyism, he often explains this was not his intention.
Tickets are now on sale for Susannah, running April 15-18 on the mainstage of the Boston University Theatre.
Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized private research university with more than 30,000 students participating in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. BU consists of 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission. The Boston University College of Fine Arts was created in 1954 to bring together the School of Music, the School of Theatre, and the School of Visual Arts. The University’s vision was to create a community of artists in a conservatory-style school offering professional training in the arts to both undergraduate and graduate students, complemented by a liberal arts curriculum for undergraduate students.
The Boston University School of Music, founded in 1872, is the oldest degree-granting music program in the United States. The character of the School is shaped by its position at the center of a major university situated in the heart of Boston, a city that takes learning and music seriously. The Boston University Opera Institute is one of the premier programs of the School of Music in the College of Fine Arts. Founded in 1987 by Dean Emerita Phyllis Curtin, and under the leadership of Director of Opera Programs Sharon Daniels since 1995, the Opera Institute is a non-degree professional training program for the advanced singer preparing for an operatic career. A theatre conservatory within the embrace of a metropolitan university, the Boston University School of Theatre offers programs in acting, directing, design, production, management, theatre education, and theatre arts. Its programs foster the synthesis of imagination, intellectual inquiry, and technical skill by combining rigorous training with study in a traditional liberal arts curriculum.
AT A GLANCE
Thursday, April 15, 7:30pm
Friday, April 16, 7:30pm
Saturday, April 17, 7:30pm
Sunday, April 18, 2:00pm
Pre-show discussions with Carlisle Floyd and Phyllis Curtin:
Thursday, April 15, 6:00pm & Friday, April 16, 6:00pm
Music and Libretto by Carlisle Floyd
William Lumpkin, conductor
Sharon Daniels, stage director
Tickets: $20 general public; $15 BU alumni, WGBH members, Huntington subscribers, students, and senior citizens; BU community: one free ticket with BU ID at the door, day of performance, subject to availability.
Box Office: www.BostonTheatreScene.com or 617.933.8600.
Boston University Theatre, Mainstage
264 Huntington Avenue, Boston
Getting There: T Green Line, E line, Symphony stop; T Orange Line, Mass Ave stop
Artists and programs are subject to change; visit www.bu.edu/cfa for updated schedules and program information.
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