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An eventful weekend for San Francisco Opera

Patricia Racette as 'Susannah'
Patricia Racette as 'Susannah'
Ken Howard

Following the opening of San Francisco Opera’s 2014-15 Season on Friday September 5, with Bellini’s Norma, the operatic delights continue over the weekend. Saturday sees the first performance by the Company of Carlisle Floyd’s classic American work, Susannah, followed on Sunday afternoon by San Francisco Chronicle Presents Opera in the Park, and on Sunday evening, Classical KDFC presents its regular San Francisco Opera broadcast on the first Sunday in the month - on this occasion, La Traviata.

Susannah - one of the most widely performed of American operas - is Carlisle Floyd’s best-known work. Written between 1953 and 1954, it was the first work for which the composer wrote both the score and the libretto. Susannah was premiered at Florida State University in 1955, won the New York Music Critic’s Circle Award in 1957, and was selected as America’s official operatic entry at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.

The action takes place in rural Tennessee, with a score evocative of the opera’s Appalachian setting, and tells of a strong-willed young woman unjustly accused of indecent behavior for having bathed naked in a stream. The plot involves a charismatic traveling preacher, whose appearance raises the question as to whether he’ll turn out to be her salvation or her downfall.

This new production stars soprano Patricia Racette in the title role, with tenor Brandon Jovanovich as her brother, Sam, and bass Raymond Aceto as the Reverend Olin Blitch. Direction is by Michael Cavanagh, with sets by Erhard Rom (both of Nixon in China fame), and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus are conducted by Karen Kamensek, Music Director of Hannover State Opera, making her San Francisco Debut.

Susannah is sung in English, with English supertitles. Tickets may be purchased at, from the San Francisco Opera Box Office, 301 Van Ness Avenue (at Grove Street), or by phone at (415) 864-3330.

San Francisco Chronicle Presents Opera in the Park is one of the Bay Area’s most popular musical events. An annual free concert, it takes place in Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow on Sunday, September 7, and celebrates San Francisco Opera’s 92nd Season. Stars from productions of the Company’s Fall Season - including Marco Berti, Patricia Racette, Brandon Jovanovich, Heidi Stober, Ramón Vargas, Brian Jagde and Christian Van Horn - will perform well loved arias and duets by popular composers such as Bellini, Puccini and Verdi, accompanied by the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, conducted by Music Director, Nicola Luisotti.

The master of ceremonies will be David Gockley, General Director of San Francisco Opera, and you can either take a picnic to this outdoor, admission-free event, or buy food and beverages on site. For more information, visit

Rounding off a memorable weekend, KDFC - the Bay Area’s listener-supported classical music radio station - broadcasts Verdi’s La Traviata on Sunday evening. Recorded this last summer at the War Memorial Opera House, La Traviata features soprano Nicole Cabell as Violetta, tenor Saimir Pirgu as her lover, Alfredo, baritone Vladimir Stoyanov and mezzo-soprano Zanda Švēde as Flora.

Visit the KDFC website for tuning frequencies in the Bay Area, or listen online, also at

For a full list of radio broadcasts of San Francisco Opera productions taking place from September to December, follow this link . Featured works include the two operas which, together with La Traviata, made up SF Opera’s recent summer season - Show Boat and Madame Butterfly.

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