REVIEW: CUOS Presents Susannah

This past Sunday, I did something I never thought I would, yet have always had this fascination with; I went to watch an Opera. What in my head has always been contained to the stuffy up classes to enjoy was actually a gripping and enthralling experience as we followed the story of Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah. Written and set within the 1950’s in the heart of Tennessee, true Bible belt country and the tale of Susannah Polk, an innocent girl who is targeted as a sinner, and claimed to be possessed by the devil by the local village elders. This comes after the three village elders, upon spying her bathing naked in a stream in the valley, accuse her of these things to cover their own lustful thoughts, as well as their wives jealousy. We then get to experience her breaking down slowly throughout the production, as being ostracised slowly drives her insane. Backed up by a full orchestra it was certainly a sight to behold.

Whilst I did have my issues with some of the sound balancing, it was difficult to understand what was going on a lot of time in the first act, but by the second act the actors seemed to get into the flow of things and we saw a lot more of a stronger performance.

The use of reds within this production was a personal highlight. In the beginning the lighting and colours (especially of Susannah who wore whites and light blues as costume) was heavy on the muted blue tones, and slowly changed to reds through purple as we watched the descent into madness of this village. This even included a very clever costume change after Susannah was raped by the visiting preacher, when she then wore a red top for the rest of the production. I love little notes like that! It brings to light (pardon the pun) a whole new level to any production.

Specific shout out to Act 2 Scene 2 in the church with the whole cast, which was the stand out of the whole night. It seems I will be going back to the opera more often, well done CUOS!


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