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Hillman Opera to present 20th century masterpiece from Nov. 7 to 9
Friday, October 31, 2014

Hillman Opera to present 20th century masterpiece from Nov. 7 to 9

A work that is considered to be a masterpiece of 20th century American music and theater will be presented as the 2014 Hillman Opera. Carlisle Floyd’s “Susannah” will be performed on Nov. 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m. and on Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. in Marvel Theatre.

 Margaret Van Norden
 Danielle Beckvermit
 Michael Hawk
 Colin Mann

The opera tells an age-old morality tale using Appalachian folk music themes framed in operatic drama. The story focuses on an innocent girl who is targeted as a sinner in a small mountain town in Tennessee.

Floyd, who was born in 1926 in South Carolina, composed “Susannah” in 1955. It was awarded the New York Music Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Opera in 1956.

“Carlisle Floyd’s masterpiece ‘Susannah’ has become one of the three most often performed American operas, together with Gershwin’s ‘Porgy and Bess’ and Menotti’s ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors’,” Hillman Opera Producer Julie Newell said.

Newell noted Floyd was also the librettist for the opera and he completed “Susannah” while serving as a member of the piano faculty at Florida State University. “Floyd’s libretto is adapted from the Apocryphal tale of ‘Susannah and the Elders,’ in which an innocent girl is targeted as a sinner and endures the threats and accusations flung at her,” Newell said. “Floyd’s placement of the story in a rural southern mountain town brings a great personal weight to the story. The opera is filled with Appalachian folk melodies framed in a classical operatic framework, as well as traditional Baptist hymns, and Appalachian dialect is included in the libretto itself.”

The Hillman Opera previously presented “Susannah” at Fredonia in 1972 and again in 1983. The 1972 production saw Carlisle Floyd himself in the audience on opening night.

The annual Hillman Opera is a unique collaborative effort of immense proportion. “The Hillman Opera is approaching its 60th anniversary and has represented a unique university-community connection since its earliest days,” Newell said. “Sponsored by the Hillman Memorial Music Association, the production is co-produced by the School of Music and the Department of Theatre and Dance. It features the talents of students, faculty and alumni.”

The principals of the Hillman Opera production of “Susannah” include senior Margaret Van Norden (Susannah for the Nov. 7 and 9 performances), senior Danielle Beckvermit (Susannah for the Nov. 8 performance), junior Michael Hawk (Blitch for the Nov. 7 and 9 performances) and senior Colin Mann (Blitch for the Nov. 8 performance).

The production features an original stage setting created by Department of Theatre and Dance alumni Samantha Sayers and Ian Lootens. Dr. David Rudge of the School of Music serves as the music director/conductor and Ted Sharon of the Department of Theatre and Dance is the stage director. Department of Theatre and Dance faculty members Laurel Walford and Todd Proffitt are the costume and lighting designers, respectively, and David Stellhorn is the faculty technical director. School of Music faculty member Shinobu Takagi serves as the vocal coach and School of Music graduate student Matt Marco is chorus master.

More than100 students from the School of Music and the Department of Theatre and Dance will participate in the production, either on stage or behind the scenes.

Tickets are available through the Ticket Office in the Williams Center, by phone at 673-3501 and online at

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