Susannah Opera is coming to Armidale in January

Based on the 1950s American opera by composer Carlisle Floyd, Armidale’s rendition of Susannah is set to be a massive hit, according to director George Torbay.

The story is about an 18-year-old Susannah Polk who is targeted as a sinner in the small mountain town of New Hope Valley, Tennessee.

“This is only the second production in Australian history of this opera and it won’t come around - I don’t think - ever again,” Mr Torbay said.

This is only the second production in Australian history of this opera and it won’t come around, I don’t think, ever again.

George Torbay

A performance by “the best cast we’ve ever had” includes rising stars Jessie Wilson and Imogen-Faith Malfitano playing the lead role as Susannah, as part of a 28 person cast.

“It is probably one of the most performed American operas … even though it’s rarely done in Australia,” Mr Torbay said.

“It was written at the height of McCarthyism and that whole movement in the United States which involved suspicion around communism and who was involved.”

Mr Torbay said the writer wanted to make a commentary on the whole political phenomenon.

“A travelling preacher comes through and Susannah, is very pretty, no one really trusts her and she lives with her brother alone,” he said.

“Several men from the village catch her bathing naked in a stream and they say that she is evil, then the travelling preacher gets involved and says she must come and repent.

“She says she hasn’t done anything wrong but the town turns on her, accusing her of being the cause of all of their problems and the source of all evil.”

The Singapore-based director said some of the most exciting scenes occur inside the church.

“There’s some wonderful scenes inside the church ... a big chorus … but it doesn’t turn out very good and is pretty bad for the soprano in the end but it’s essentially about a community turning in on itself,” he said.

Susannah is double cast due to the extremely demanding role, Mr Torbay said.

“She’s only off stage for about six minutes and Imogen and Jessie are unbelievably talented voices.”