Susannah at Snape

Susannah, English Touring Opera, Snape Maltings, May 9

Susannah, English Touring Opera, Snape Maltings, May 9

I CONFESS of never having heard of the American composer Carlisle Floyd, yet his opera Susannah has been a staple of the American repertoire since its first performance in 1955.

Floyd wrote both music and libretto, which is based on the biblical story of Susanna and the elders but transfers it to a remote evangelical community in 1950's Tennessee.

The claustrophobic atmosphere of this community and the pressure on its members to conform - shades of McCarthyism in 50's America - is brilliantly conveyed especially in the opera's great centre piece, the revivalist meeting.


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Here Susanna is denounced by the elders after being caught bathing in a creek used for baptisms, and refuses to repent, even to the exhortations of a charismatic visiting preacher Blitch.

Andrew Slater has a great dramatic and vocal presence as Blitch, and in both the scene of the revivalist meeting and his guilt-ridden seduction of Susannah is superb.

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Fine performances also from Donna Bateman as Susannah and Todd Wilander as her drunken brother Sam and in the pit Alexander Ingrim drew splendid playing from the English Touring Opera orchestra.

In fact Floyd's opera is a beautifully crafted drama. The problem is the music: easy on the ear, yet it doesn't move one and is instantly forgettable.

Frank Cliff

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