Characteristics of Susannah
"I've talked to many people who want to label Susannah a folk opera. I say, 'That establishes the locale, but I hope that is only the beginning of it.'"
- Carlisle Floyd
Susannah is an American folk-type opera. It has often been characterized as homespun. It is about mountain valley intolerance.
The opera depends greatly on word, action, and dramatic intensity with American dances and revival hymns. It skillfully imitates Appalachian square dances and folk songs.
Susannah combines poetry and music in a way that brings seemingly unremarkable characters to life, showing the depth and passions of human emotions and the tragedy of human weaknesses, real and perceived.
Susannah is so thoroughly Southern that she could not live anywhere but in her valley of New Hope, Tennessee. Though the emotions in Susannah are universal, most people who encounter the opera today probably find the action somewhat removed from their own everyday existence.
Few operas match the story, diction, and music so perfectly.
Sources: "Intermission," Ticket to the Opera pp. 575-576 (1996); Mitchell, "Susannah," Opera pp. 33, 36 (1956); Opera News 1999 pp 23 - 23; Martin, "Susannah," The Opera Companion to Twentieth Century Opera pp 558-564 (1970).