Susannah: a story of malicious gossip, lust and murder

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Susannah, played by Audra Methvin, comforts lil Bat, played by Jordan Hammons

SMU’s opera theater put on its second of four showings of Carlisle Floyd’s opera, Susannah, on Friday evening in the Bob Hope Theater. A mix of seasoned opera goers, first timers, and students numbering about 370 strong was in attendance for the showing, and the performance brought them to their feet in applause.

Recently nominated, distinguished faculty member Director Hank Hammett, and Maestro Paul Phillips took the helm and sailed the audience headlong into Susannah’s compelling and dark storyline.

Set in 1930 Appalachia during the Great Depression, Susannah is a sad story of malicious gossip, lust, and murder. Audra Methvin, an accomplished opera singer and student in the second year of her performance degree, played the character of Susannah, and delivered an incredible performance, portraying the pain and bitterness that comes from gossip.

Hammett said that the story of Susannah is special because people can relate to it. The music and lyrics are based on Christian hymns; Carlisle Floyd wrote the opera in English; and, according to Hammett, everyone can identify with Susannah’s plight to one degree or another.

“It’s a work that speaks to people on many levels,” he said.

Some of the audience members seemed to reflect Hammett’s assertion. First time opera goer, Chris Eatmon, said that he felt for Susannah and that her story seemed like a sad parallel of real life.

According to audience members and performers alike, the poignancy of the performance seems to have its roots in the emotion and life the cast gave to the opera.

Jordan Hammons, one of the leads in the show, said that working with the caliber of cast that he did in Susannah created a, “real, human moment,” and that whenever he performs it is as though it is “new and living each time.”

He attributes this chemistry in part to Hammett’s motto for his students, “Be bold. Be joyful. Be fearless. Be yourself.”

All in all, Susannah, the product of nearly eight months of planning, casting, memorization, and rehearsal resulted in a powerful performance that left an impression on its viewers and added to the long list of high quality meadows performances.

In the words of Mr. Chris Eatmon, “Hats off to the whole cast.”

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