Vancouver Opera presented the Canadian premiere of Carlisle Floyd's powerful opera, Susannah, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre last February 1-10.
Based on the story of Susanna and the Elders from the Biblical Apocrypha, the opera tells the story of a beautifu young woman both reviled and lusted-after by the Elders of her poor, rural Tennessee village. When a group of elders spy her as she innocently bathes naked in a creek, she becomes the target of a religious witch hunt under their preacher Reverend Olin Blitch who, like the tele-evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, seduces her as he tries to save her soul from eternal damnation.
Carlisle Floyd wrote the score and libretto for this opera in the fifties, inspired as were many American plays such as Arthur Milller's The Crucible, by the stifling and hypocritical McCarthy movement.
A superb cast led by Canadian Soprano Sally Dibblee (Susannah) and American bass-baritone David Pittsinger (Reverend Olin Blitch) give an excellent rendition of this American opera accompanied by the Vancouver Opera Orchestra under Maestro David Agler.
I found Morris Panych's direction of this opera refreshing and creative. The addition of the four angels which, I believe, was not in the original script, lent an added touch to the religious/biblical content of the opera reminding us angels are always around humans. I was a bit amused, though, as were others in the audience, to see the angels naked in one scene. I believe Panych was trying something bold, symbolic and different?