Fine singing, versatile sets elevate Colony’s ‘Susannah’

Carlisle Floyd’s “Susannah” opened Wednesday with strong performances at the Seagle Music Colony.
Soprano Carolyn Hoehle plays the title role in the Seagle Music Colony's production of 'Susannah.' Tenor Clark Weyrauch plays her protective brother.
Soprano Carolyn Hoehle plays the title role in the Seagle Music Colony's production of 'Susannah.' Tenor Clark Weyrauch plays her protective brother.

SCHROON LAKE — The Seagle Music Colony has never shied away from having its young singers tackle some of the modern repertoire. Now in its 99th year, the Colony must be doing something right as many of its alumni are now singing in many of the world’s most prestigious houses.

On Wednesday, Carlisle Floyd’s “Susannah” opened. The opera was written in 1955 during the McCarthy hearings when an accusation was equivalent to a guilty verdict, and was inspired by an apocryphal chapter in the biblical Book of Daniel. The one hour and 20 minute opera is a tale about a small Southern community’s self-righteous religious bigotry in the face of presumed guilt. In actuality, the 19-year old girl, Susannah, is an innocent.

That role is a lot to take on but soprano Carolyn Hoehle was passionately involved. On stage for much of the opera, her pretty face registered a range of emotions and her voice maintained a good intensity in her many arias.

Although the music is through-composed — in that the dialogue is sung and follows speaking patterns — Floyd did write some lyrical arias. Hoehle’s voice, which is large, had an uneven range. Her bottom and middle were good but on top the tone spread and at full volume her vibrato interfered and she lost the clarity of the English words. One of her best arias was “Ain’t it a Pretty Night,” which was lovely and mellow. Her Southern twang was also pretty good.

Seagle Music Colony

— “Susannah”, 8 p.m. today

— “West Side Story,” 8 p.m. Aug. 13-16; 2 p.m. Aug. 15

WHERE: Oscar Seagle Memorial Theater, 999 Charley Hill Road, Schroon Lake

HOW MUCH: $25, $15 (kids) for and “Susannah” and $30, $20 for “West Side Story”.

MORE INFO: 532-7875;

Tenor Tevyn Hill as Little Bat, a young boy who befriends and then betrays Susannah, did very well with the many fast words he had to sing, and was suitably anxious and ingratiating. Tenor Clark Weyrauch was also very good as Susannah’s protective brother. His voice was well centered with ringing qualities.

Bass-baritone Nathan Mattingly as the Reverend Olin Blitch had the best controlled voice in the show and some of the cleanest diction. Smooth and warm, it glided from one phrase to the next like caramel. His acting also had levels. He was proselytizing and righteous with his congregation, sneakily holy in his hidden agenda with Susannah, and consumed with regret and remorse after he realizes he raped a virginal girl.

All these events took place over many scenes but Sean Jeffries created three versatile sets and lighting that allowed the large crowd to easily see the locations. The cast also acted as stage crew to move the few props. Director Jeffrey McEvoy blocked the large cast with imagination and kept the pace moving and Pat Seyller dressed everyone in appropriate 1950s backwoods garb. Jason Smith and Richard Williams provided solid two piano support.

There’s one last performance of “Susannah” at 8 p.m. today at the Oscar Seagle Memorial Theatre at 999 Charley Hill Road. The next production, “West Side Story,” will run Aug. 13-16.

Categories: Entertainment

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