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Ain't It a Pretty Night (arr Nelson)

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Carlisle Floyd

Carlisle Floyd (arr. Sean Nelson)

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Subtitle: From Susannah

General Info

Year: 1954
Duration: c.
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Manuscript
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Floyd's Susannah was composed in 1954, and was performed for the first time at Florida State University in Tallahassee, on February 24, 1955.

Carlisle Floyd has been one of America's foremost opera composers since the 1950s. Susannah, his first full-length opera, remains his most familiar work. For this work, Floyd adapted the Book of Susannah from the Biblical Apocrypha. In this story, Susannah is an innocent young girl who resists seduction by a group of Elders. In revenge for her refusal, the Elders accuse Susannah of adultery. Susannah is brought to trial, and is saved in the end by the Prophet Daniel, who shows that she has been unjustly accused, and who has the guilty Elders put to death.

Floyd's adaptation transposes this story to the rural Tennessee town of New Hope Valley. Here, as in many Appalachian towns, the church is the binding element of the community, and the congregation's opinions of an individual carry real influence. Young and beautiful Susannah Polk has stirred up the envy of the mean-spirited Church Elders and their wives. One day, as Susannah is bathing in an isolated pond, the Elders see her without her knowledge. She has done nothing wrong, but this stirs up their own lust towards Susannah, and in reaction they condemn her behavior as shameless. The most powerful member of the community, Reverend Olin Blitch, is sympathetic towards Susannah. But unlike Daniel, Blitch is unable to control his own lust, and seduces Susannah, and it is he, not the vengeful Elders, who dies in the end. Susannah ends the opera without her previous innocence, now bitter and old beyond her years.

Susannah's aria Ain't It a Pretty Night comes in Act I, before there is any hint of darkness in her life. She has just come from a dance, and is sitting out on her front porch with her young admirer, Little Bat. She luxuriates in the beauty of the summer evening, and wonders about the life she might lead beyond her isolated valley. It begins with Susannah alone, then gradually reaches a climax as she vows to leave, "be one of them folks myself." Near the end, there is a brief foreshadowing of the tragedy that is to come, but the aria ends with a final dreamy phrase from Susannah.

- Program Note from the Fort Wayne Philharmonic

Commercial Discography

None discovered thus far.

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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Works for Winds by this Composer