Arts & Culture

Alum returns to open UK Opera season with American opera 'Susannah'

Watch UK Opera Theatre's Megh Jennings Posner and Robert Samuel Powless discuss "Susannah" on "Everyday Kentucky" on WKYT.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 3, 2023) — University of Kentucky alumnus William Clay Thompson will return to his alma mater this week to help kick off University of Kentucky Opera Theatre's 2023-24 season with American composer Carlisle Floyd’s powerful opera, "Susannah," Oct. 6-8, at the Lexington Opera House.

One of the most-performed American operas of all time, "Susannah," is set in foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and tells the apocryphal tale of Susannah Polk, a lovely young woman raised by her older brother, Sam. Susannah’s small mountain town turns against her after she is painted as a seductress by the church elders for bathing in a creek near her home. Visiting revival preacher, the Rev. Olin Blitch, tries to force her into repentance only to prove his character is darker than his evangelical exterior.

"'Susannah' was the very first opera I produced when I became director of UK Opera Theatre in 1997,” said UK Opera Theatre Director Everett McCorvey, D.M.A. “I am very happy to be able to revisit this powerful piece that shares some of the most beautiful singing in all of American opera.”

Lending his talents to the cast of UKOT’s "Susannah" will be UK alumnus and Lexington native, William Clay Thompson. Thompson plays the Rev. Blitch, a traveling preacher who grapples with his moral compass over the course of the story. “The story of 'Susannah,' it can be for anybody. Anybody can connect to that — of wondering what else is out there. To be comfortable where you are at home is important, but to also find comfort in the unknown outside of your comfort zone.”

Thompson has emerged as a rising talent with the Ryan Opera Center Ensemble at Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he made his debut as Zuniga in "Carmen."

“If you haven’t seen 'Susannah,' get out of your comfort zone, and see this show, the perfect epitome of American opera. People singing in southern accents, so you’ll feel right at home. And see a great, great piece of art. It’s amazing. It’s a pleasure to come back home and sing with UKOT. This is where it all started for me. This is where the drive really found its spark. Even better is we’re performing 'Susannah,' a show with such focus on dreaming of going out and finding what beyond the mountains or the town that you’ve lived in your whole life. But also speaks on wanting to come back if you ever get home sick. It’s very kismet for me.”

Sung in English with English supertitles, performances of UK Opera Theatre’s "Susannah" begin 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6, and Saturday, Oct. 7, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, and Sunday, Oct. 8. Tickets on sale now at, or by calling the Central Bank Center ticket office at 859-233-3535 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. (All phone orders include a per ticket service fee.) 

"Susannah" scenery designed by R. Keith Brumley. Scenery originally designed for Des Moines Metro Opera. Directed by Dennis Whitehead Darling and choreographed by Anna Wilson.

Buyer beware

With the rise in the number of "secondary ticket agencies/scalpers," UK Opera Theatre has experienced an increase in the number of invalid tickets being presented at entrance gates. The ONLY authorized ticket sales agents for the Lexington Opera House are:

The Lexington Opera House is not able to honor, replace or refund invalid tickets. Invalid tickets must be confiscated by the Central Bank Center Ticket Office. A copy of the tickets, which may be used to alert the point of purchase, will be provided at the customer's request.

Customers with invalid tickets are welcome to purchase valid tickets at the Central Bank Center Ticket Office — seating location and price based upon availability. Learn more by visiting the Lexington Opera House’s website.

William Clay Thompson Standing next to building with line of columns

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