Skip to main content

Atlanta Opera: The Cold Sassy Tree

The Atlanta Opera launched its 2007-2008 season with a bold move into the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Just as bold was the decision to feature a modern opera based on Cold Sassy Tree, a novel about life in rural Georgia at the turn of the 20th century.

A native of Georgia and writer for the ATLANTA JOURNAL, Olive Ann Burns wrote Cold Sassy Tree after finding out she had cancer at age 51. Based in the town of Commerce, Georgia in the early 1900’s, Burns tells the story of her great grandfather who scandalized the community when he married a much younger woman three weeks after the death of his first wife. Burns died in 1990, ten years before Carlisle Floyd’s opera of Cold Sassy Tree premiered at the Houston Grand Opera in 2000.

Carlisle Floyd is the dean of U.S. opera composers. His best known work is Susannah (1954), which has been performed and recorded more than any other opera in America. A native of South Carolina who currently lives in Florida, Floyd came to Atlanta during rehearsals and answered questions from both cast and crew.

State of the Arts follows the cast as they go through the rehearsal process with conductor Arthur Fagen and director John De Lancie. “Rucker Lattimore” is based on Burns’ great grandfather and is played by Kristopher Irmiter, who has performed the role four times. Carlisle Floyd wrote the role of “Will Tweedy” for John McVeigh, who has played Rucker’s grandson every time the opera has been performed in America. Erin Wall as “Love Simpson” and Georgia native Maureen McKay as “Lightfoot McClendon,” are both newcomers to their roles, which they perform brilliantly in the Atlanta production.

Our story ends on opening night of the Atlanta Opera’s production of Cold Sassy Tree at the Cobb Energy Centre. As the opera concludes, 81 year-old composer Carlisle Floyd is welcomed onstage to thunderous applause. Cold Sassy Tree has come home to Georgia.

For more information, visit the Atlanta Opera’s website: