Susannah at the Repertory Opera Company

Jessica Buda as Susannah with the Repertory Opera Company chorus

Los Angeles, Ca - On Saturday, June 16th, the Repertory Opera Company debuted its last production of the season with the Americanized and passion filled, Susanna and the Elders from the Book of Daniel in the Apocrypha. Written by Carlisle Floyd in 1955, this opera combines poetry and music in order to critically explore the weaknesses of mankind and their tragic ramifications.

Susannah takes place in a small, staunchly religious town in Tennessee circa 1950s. A young, beautiful, yet vulnerable and naive girl, Susannah (Linda Alexander), is shunned by the local church Elders after she is seen bathing naked in a stream. The new minister, Biltch (Phil Meyer), like the rest of the town, labels Susannah a scandalous, salacious, and sinful wench. Yet, Biltch secretly finds Susannah's perceived lasciviousness irresistible and lusts after her. Lust, lies, and paranoia grab hold of the townspeople and are inevitably the victims of a fateful ending.

Susannah is layered with traditions and techniques such as American Folk music, Wagnerian leitmotif effects, Puccini's lyrical sense, and sometimes a more contemporary Broadway style. This is Carlisle Floyd's best known opera, entering in to the permanent repertory of countless productions in the United States and is now extending into Europe. Like the majority of Floyd's other works, Susannah serves as a social commentary on two distinct human failings: 1) the judgmental, close-minded, and even bigoted nature of mankind and 2) lust, an uncontrollable human passion that will inevitably spiritually and mentally cripple the most god fearing person. 

Phil Meyer as Olin Biltch and the Repertory Opera Company chorus

The Repertory Opera Company is dedicated to bring opera to the community. By removing the pretentious stigma associated with traditional operas, like sky-rocketing ticket prices, they are making opera available and accessible to the masses. The uniqueness of this group lies in their extraordinary commitment to building a company which is convenient and graspable for all Los Angeles opera lovers. LizBeth Lucca's, artistic director, vision was to create a mid-level priced opera company (currently $20.00 per ticket) which would impassion a discerning audience. In addition to bringing the opera to us, the Repertory Opera Company also provides a place where emerging and devoted singers where they can sing their roles and improve their craft without having to leave Los Angeles.

The Repertory Opera Company uses the Wilshire United Methodist Church as a stage. This is a wonderful location because the performers are seemingly part of the audience. Or, perhaps, the audience is part of the performance. The audience and performers are feet apart from each other. This makes the opera accessible to nearly every sense: we can clearly see the faces of the performers, feel the sound vibrations resonating throughout the church and through our bodies, and hear their voices without microphones. The performers utilize nearly every inch of space throughout the church. Entering from all of the doors, sitting in the pews with the audience, walking up and down the middle aisle, and even using the audience as part of the company as we played the role of an audience sitting in church having our sins forgiven and vanquished.

No, we were not sitting in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion listening to Luciano Pavarotti. But, this quaint, community performance was just as passion-filled, if not more, than any of the other more large-scale, bigger budgeted productions often coming to Los Angeles. The performers in the Repertory Opera Company love their art. This love, passion, and respect explodes off the stage (or church alter) and permeates the hearts of the audience. Their fervor for opera is simply contagious. They speak to us through their energy. This makes for an outstanding performance that is definitely worth seeing!

The Repertory Opera Company is directed by LizBeth Lucca, who has helmed over 35 productions in LA and at the Shaker Mountain Opera Festival. Brian Farrell, Julliard graduate and the recipient of the Vladimir Horowitz Scholarship, is the musical director. He has garnered a 1st prize award at the Yamaha Keyboard Competition as well as having held the position of Assistant Conductor with Los Angeles Opera. He is the solo accompanist for the Repertory Opera Company. Featured company members include Linda Alexander stars as Susannah. She is the recipient of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Encouragement Award, and has portrayed Mrs. Charlton in the Southern California premiere of Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking at Opera Pacific, The Orphan in Der Rosenkavalier, 1st Soprano in Trois Operas, and Nedda in Pagliacci. Phil Meyer stars as the preacher, Owen Blitch. He has starred in the title role in Opera Pasadena's Marriage of Figaro, the Repertory Opera Company's production of Falstaff, Osmin in Lyric Opera's Abduction From Seraglio, and Colline in La Boheme.

Linda Alexander as Susannah and Lee Conger as Sam Polk

Other operas included in the Repertory Opera Company's schedule next season will be Le Nozzi di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) for October 2006, Don Pasquale in February 2007, Il Tabarro/Gianni Schicchi during the month of April 2007, and Faust in June of 2007.

For more information, click here.

For tickets, call (323) 969-4602

Photographs courtesy of Robert Arce.

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