Music: Discovery in Manhattan

Who ever heard of a 30-year-old composer from South Carolina named Carlisle Floyd? The Manhattan premiere of his Susannah seemed chancy, even though the opera was based on the titillating apocryphal story of Susanna and the Elders. And so first-nighters stayed away from the New York City Opera in droves —and missed the discovery of a composer who promises to become the new GianCarlo Menotti.

Susannah proved to be a relentless but gripping tragedy of man's inhumanity to man. The scene is New Hope Valley, Tenn.; the time, today. An evangelist arrives in town with the intention of saving a passel of...

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