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'Susannah' to be presented by Opera Pacific

Opera Pacific announces its final opera of the 2007-2008 season at the Orange County Performing Artscenter in Costa Mesa with Carlisle Floyd's SUSANNAH, performing May 14, 18, 22, 24, 2008. The production will be conducted by Opera Pacific Artistic Director John DeMain, and directed by Harry Silverstein. Mr. Silverstein was last seen with Opera Pacific in 2005's The Marriage of Figaro.

Artistic Director John DeMain said, "Audiences will be taken in quite a different, but equally powerful direction with Floyd's American folk opera SUSANNAH, which will end our season on a note of raw, emotional power."

It has been 25 years since the last production of SUSANNAH in Southern California by a major opera company. This is not only Opera Pacific's first presentation of SUSANNAH; it is also the first time that an opera by Carlisle Floyd has been included in Opera Pacific's seasonal repertoire. Bringing SUSANNAH to Southern California pays homage to the work of one of America's most revered opera composers and the tradition of American opera. Coupled with a large orchestration, the music of Susannah, sung in English and laden with the vernacular language of Depression-era Tennessee, was inspired by the hymns and folk tunes of Floyd's South Carolina upbringing. A pivotal work of historical significance, Susannah is based on the biblical story of "Susanna and the Elders." At once regional and universal, SUSANNAH will enable newer and younger audiences as well as traditional audiences to connect with the genre of classic American opera.

Since 1955 SUSANNAH has been given more than two hundred performances in the United States and Europe, a frequency of production matched by few operas of any era.  The New York City Opera has revived SUSANNAH four times and it has been a staple of both large and small regional companies, including Houston, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Kansas City.

Singing the role of Susannah is American soprano Pamela Armstrong, recognized internationally as a major young artist, and who made her Opera Pacific debut in 2002 as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. She has also sung the role of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni in Turin, Bordeaux, and Marseille and New York City Opera, where her roles have included Magda in Puccini's La Rondine, Violetta in Verdi's La Traviata, and the Countess in Richard Strauss's Capriccio. Armstrong made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Mimì in Puccini's La bohème in 2001 and returned in 2003 as Micaëla in Bizet's Carmen. The same year, she made her Spanish debut in La Rondine in Oviedo. In 2006, she sang her first Arabella in Richard Strauss's Arabella in Toulouse, as well as Rosalinde in Johann Strauss Jr.'s Fledermaus at Glyndebourne. In May 2007, Armstrong performed in San Diego as the Countess in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, a role she has sung with Vienna Staatsoper, New York City Opera, and in Toulouse, Paris, Los Angeles, Houston, and Trieste. Other upcoming engagements include Elvira in Bellini's Puritani in St. Louis, her first performances of Massenet's Thaïs in Oviedo, and Magda for Michigan Opera Theatre.

Dean Peterson sings the role of Olin Blitch. Peterson will also perform the role of Don Basilio in Opera Pacific's The Barber of Seville in October 2008. One of opera's most versatile and charismatic basses, Dean Peterson has in recent seasons appeared on the stages of the world's leading opera houses. At the Metropolitan Opera he has been seen singing the Four Villains in The Tales of Hoffman, the title role in Mephistofeles and Mustafa in The Italian Girl in Algiers. Mr. Peterson recently made his San Francisco Opera debut as Mustafa in a production with Vivica Genoux and William Burden. In Chicago, he has sung the role of Frank Maurant alongside Catherine Malfitano in Street Scene, and in Otello staged by Sir Peter Hall, featuring Ben Heppner and Renee Fleming. Dean was chosen to create the role of the protagonist Rucker Latimore in Carlisle Floyd's Cold Sassy Tree. While Peterson is a regular in American opera houses, he has been a Guest Artist in many of Europe's leading opera houses such as La Scala where he has performed the title role in Boito's Mephistofeles, Mephisto in Faust, Bide the Bent in Lucia di Lammermoor, Colline in La bohème, Hydrot in Gluck's Armide, and the Messenger in Fidelio. In Vienna, Dean has sung the title role in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, and was part of the requested group of singers sent to Beijing when relations between Austria and China were normalized.

The role of Sam Polk is sung by Tenor Arnold Rawls. Praised for possessing a "powerful voice," "thrilling head tones," and "a fine grasp of technique and musical fluency," Rawls has delighted audiences with his unique combination of vocal and dramatic skills in performances ranging from art song to opera. Most recently Mr. Rawls has been seen with Opera Omaha as Calaf in Turandot and with Nashville Opera as Alfred in Die Fledermaus. Summer 2005 was spent with Sante Fe Opera's production of Turandot. Fall 2005 began his debut season with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in their production of Manon Lescaut and he returned the next season in their production of Turandot. Following his portrayal of Radames in Aïda with the Arkansas Symphony, Rawls made his international debut in Bregenz, Austria as Manrico in Il Trovatore in July and August 2006. Mr. Rawls has portrayed Dick Johnson in La fanciulla del West (Utah Festival Opera), Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos (Arizona Opera), Calaf in Turandot (Opera Omaha, Des Moines Metro Opera, Nevada Opera, Pensacola Opera, Beloit Janesville Symphony, Opera Southwest, Mobile Opera, Arkansas Symphony), Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana (Pine Mountain Music Festival), Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly (Opera Southwest, Opera Theatre of Highland Park), Manrico in Il Trovatore (Teatro Lirico, Elmhurst Symphony, Opera Southwest), Alfredo in La Traviata (Natchez Opera Festival), Canio in I Pagliacci (Opera Theatre of Highland Park) and Don José in Carmen (Madison Opera, DuPage Symphony, and Dona Ana Lyric Opera).

Tenor John Easterlin sings the role of Little Bat in his Opera Pacific debut. Recent opera appearances include the Fourth Jew in Salome at Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Witch in Hänsel und Gretel at Houston Grand Opera, Jake in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny at Los Angeles Opera, Don Curzio in Le Nozze di Figaro with San Francisco Opera, Alfred in Die Fledermaus with Dayton Opera, Goro in Madame Butterfly with Toledo Opera, Mayor Upfold in Albert Herring with Gotham Chamber Opera, as well as a debut with Paris Opera as the Hunchback Brother in Die Frau ohne Schatten. He also appeared at the Metropolitan Opera as the Major-Domo in Der Rosenkavalier. Mr. Easterlin was also on Broadway in the Tony Award winning revival of Chicago following his Broadway debut in a new musical, Band in Berlin.

Singing the role of Mrs. McLean is mezzo-soprano Josepha Gayer, whose recent career highlights include several world premieres: A Streetcar Named Desire with San Francisco Opera and later with New Orleans Opera; Mrs. Bass in Tobias Picker's Emmeline with Santa Fe Opera (and also with New York City Opera and on Albany Records); and Rita the Rat in Mr. Picker's Fantastic Mr. Fox with Los Angeles Opera. She has sung Mrs. McLean in Susannah with Houston Grand Opera and the Washington Opera, Augusta Tabor in The Ballad of Baby Doe with Boston Lyric Opera, Katisha in The Mikado with Vancouver Opera, and Nastassja in the American premiere of Verlobung in Traum with the Washington Opera. She debuted with Santa Fe Opera as Mother Goose in The Rake's Progress and returned to sing Arabella and Die Zauberflöte. At New York City Opera she sang in the New York premiere of Where the Wild Things Are.

Opera Pacific Prologue:

The Opera Pacific Prologue on SUSANNAH will be held at Bowers Museum on Sunday, April 27 at 2:00 pm. Opera Pacific's Prologues provide an introduction to the opera for all audiences and are designed to provide information for those new to opera, as well as those who have been lifelong fans of the art form.  Prologue speaker Ron Shaheen lends his insight into the history, music and plot intricacies as intended by the composer. Prologues also provide audience members an opportunity to ask questions in discussions with the guest speaker, and hear excerpts from the upcoming productions performed by main stage cast members.

Pre-Performance Lecture:

An overview of the performance, story synopsis, historical and composer connections, and personal insights with Opera Pacific's Chorus Master Henri Venanzi is held one hour prior to each performance in Segerstrom Hall.

Celebrating its 22nd Season, Opera Pacific has established itself as one of the finest professional opera companies in the nation. Opera Pacific's main stage productions, extensive community outreach programs, and energetic Guild Alliance combine to create a cultural resource for all of Southern California. More than 670,000 people have enjoyed Opera Pacific's productions at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, while over 575,000 young people have discovered the world of opera through the company's in-school presentations, Student Previews, and nationally recognized Opera Camps.

In addition to the "grand opera" repertory, Opera Pacific has responded to the need for strong, professional productions of classic American musical theatre and European operetta. Under the baton and dedication of John DeMain, opera is an event with the honest communication of the stories and musical values of the works, combined with exciting singers, and major opera house scale productions.

Tickets for Opera Pacific's SUSANNAH are priced from $27 to $191 and are available by calling 1-800-34-OPERA, online at, or by visiting the Orange County Performing Artscenter Box Office at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa. For information, go to  For groups, call (714) 830-6361.

Calendar Information for Opera Pacific's SUSANNAH

Wednesday, May 14 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, May 18 at 2:00 pm
Thursday, May 22 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, May 24 at 7:30 pm

Segerstrom Hall at the Orange County Performing Artscenter,
600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

Prices - $27 to $191
Phone - 1 800 34 OPERA
Online -
Box Office - Orange County Performing Artscenter Box Office,
600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Subscriptions - 1 800 34 OPERA (1-800-346-7372)
Groups - (714) 830-6361
Information -

Prologue :      Bowers Museum, April 27, 2008 at 2:00pm

SUSANNAH will be sung in English.

A preview of the performance with Opera Pacific's Chorus Master Henri Venanzi is held one hour prior to each performance.

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