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A Soprano for All Seasons

Suzan Hanson in the role of Madame Lisette Raquin

Émile Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin, adapted for opera by composer Tobias Picker and librettist Gene Scheer, premiered at the Dallas Opera in 2001 and has subsequently been performed at the San Diego Opera and the Opéra de Montréal. Los Angeles-based soprano Suzan Hanson will join the cast in the role of Madame Lisette Raquin for the performance run at Long Beach Opera [LBO], beginning at the end of January.

The character of Lisette is that of a doting mother, never relinquishing the care of her physically-weak, adult son Camille, who is married to her niece (and now daughter-in-law) Thérèse. In the course of the swiftly-moving opera, the role of Lisette gradually becomes the focus of all stage action, even as the character’s physical capabilities diminish because of aging and a pivotal, plot-turning, on-stage stroke.

In a conversation with Suzan, she recalled how life’s circumstances have, on occasion, affected her stage roles. During the performance run in the part of the Lady Madeline for the premiere of Philip Glass’ The Fall of the House of Usher, Suzan, an avid jogger, had the misfortune of impacting an auto while crossing a street, the resultant transient facial injuries blending in right along with the gruesome makeup required for the role.

Ms. Hanson: as the Lady Madeline

Ms. Hanson earned a MM in Vocal performance at the University of Connecticut and then a MFA in Acting at the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. In 1993, an audition for (then) General Director Michael Milenski, secured Suzan’s Long Beach Opera company debut for the  production of John Cage’s highly unusual Europeras 3 & 4 [an exercise in using a chance-operated collage of six singers, two pianos, and six record-players]. Since then, Ms. Hanson has taken on an additional twenty eclectic roles for LBO, appearing in venues varying from the conventional (Long Beach’s Terrace and Center Theaters) to the operatic paranormal (an abandoned furniture warehouse, the Long Beach Aquarium, and the Queen Mary).

Suzan’s favorite LBO role has been that of Medea for the Cherubini opera, a production in which she collaborated in the conception of its innovative staging. Candid performance photo images from a few of Suzan’s roles with LBO are gathered together in the following pair of montages:

 Pictured are [across the top] the News Vendor (Poulenc’s The Breasts of Tiresias),

Hanako (Glass’s Hotel of Dreams), Brünnhilde (LBO’s abridged Wagner Ring), and
Medea (Cherubini); and [across the bottom] Kati (Kurka’s The Good Soldier Schweik),
Vava (Shostakovich’s Cherry Town), Pat Nixon (Adams’ Nixon in China),
and Madame Curie (Byars’ The Paper Nautilus).

Susan as Mrs. Williamson [The Difficulty of Crossing a Field], surrounded by her
as Marilyn Klinghoffer, The Lady Madeline [The Fall of the House of Usherand Lady Macbeth

Drawing upon her expertise in both voice and acting, Ms. Hanson produced Smoke and Mirrors, an interdisciplinary theater work incorporating music of Strauss, Puccini, Weill, and Sondheim and scored for soprano, baritone, piano, and cello. Performed locally at El Camino College, it was evocative of the sort of stagecraft sometimes created to accompany performances of Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise.

Ms. Hanson has relished her familial relationship with Long Beach Opera and looks forward to adding to her repertoire in this approaching adaptation by composer Tobias Picker of French author Émile Zola’s Tale of adultery, murder, and maniacal behavior.

So soon, after having taken on roles for Long Beach Opera which encompass an abundance of eroticism, crime, evil, farce, fanaticism, murder, the supernatural, and incest, Suzan will be poised to take up residence in a neighborhood haberdashery shop in the back streets of Paris, this one transported to San Pedro’s historic Warner Grand Theatre, a site which, with its dark, art-deco interior, period lighting fixtures and vaulted ceiling, replete with antiquified floral stenciling, is the ideal venue for this journey into madness.

Acknowledgements:

  1. Photo of Ms. Hanson as the News Vendor by Doris Koplik
  2. All other LBO performance photos were taken by Keith Ian Polakoff for LBO
  3. Other photos of Ms. Hanson  come courtesy of Ms. Hanson
  4. Both  photo montages were created by May Wang

 

 

 

 

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Author: Judy Lieb
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