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Critics raved over Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s summer production of Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah—directed by acclaimed soprano Patricia Racette, and conducted by Gemma New, praising the 1955 opera for its enduring appeal and ever-relevant themes.

This past June, the Opera Theatre of St. Louis presented a new production of Carlisle Floyd’s iconic opera Susannah, directed by noted American soprano Patricia Racette and conducted by Gemma New, the former resident conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Critics praised the production as the standout opera of the company’s season, featuring masterful performances by the opera’s lead, soprano Janai Brugger as Susannah Polk, as well as bass William Guanbo Su as Olin Blitch, tenor Frederick Ballentine as Sam Polk, and tenor Christian Sanders as Little Bat McLean. The poignant, contemporary staging by Patricia Racette—herself a celebrated Susannah in San Francisco Opera’s 2014 production—was praised for highlighting the relevance of the opera’s themes: hypocrisy, violence against women, and society inequity. Opera Today touted: “Ms. Racette has not missed a trick, and has staged emotionally honest interactions for every dramatic situation. She has not only moved the large cast around with clarity, variety, and purpose, but really excels in the work’s private moments.”

This acclaimed production of Susannah, long considered one of America’s most iconic operas, leads up to Carlisle Floyd’s centennial in 2026 (coinciding with America’s 250th anniversary).

“This poignant opera guided by returning director Patricia Racette, is filled with raw emotion. Her production transforms a McCarthy-era work of social criticism into an opera that rubs raw nerves and confronts the duplicity of small towns, religion, and sham evangelism that exist today.”

Opera News
“a thoroughly persuasive argument for the dramatic validity of Carlisle Floyd’s 1955 opera.”

“on every possible level, a resounding success … the score is wonderfully evocative.”

Wall Street Journal
“‘The trees on the mountain,’ Susannah’s folk-inspired lament, was especially heart-rending.”

Opera Today
“It is a crowning achievement for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis to have mounted this remarkable evening in the theatre, led by three women at the top of their game: Gemma New, Patricia Racette, and Janai Brugger.”

Riverfront Times
“Opera at its best … both deft and modern”
Susannah feels like a smash hit. You feel it in the excitement in the audience, in the bravos shouted after the big arias and the energy at intermission.”

“Carlisle Floyd’s music is richly orchestrated and very like a fine film score. It supports in detail every flourish of emotion, every crisis, every gentle peaceful moment.”

Ladue News
“a hauntingly beautiful presentation … a stunning tour de force”

>  Further information on Work: Susannah

Photo: Eric Woolsey

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