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For the past two years, Long Leaf Opera Company has commendably filled its niche of presenting modern British and American opera, not trying to compete with the other area companies that aim for the grand opera stage. A collaboration between the Durham Savoyards and NCCU through faculty members Randolph Umberger and Benjamin Keaton, Long Leaf presents its season opener, Susannah, by Carlisle Floyd at Durham's Carolina Theatre on Sept. 28 and 30 at 8 p.m., and Oct. 1 at 2 p.m.

Susannah is based on the story of Susannah and the Elders from the Apocrypha, transferred to a rural Tennessee community during the Depression. Since lust and hypocrisy never go out of style, the story updates well, and the work, with its readily accessible music, is one of the few American operas to see numerous productions since its premiere in 1955.

Long Leaf has reached outside the local community for the production. Umberger and Keaton produced the opera last summer at Opera Fort Collins, Colo., and they are borrowing scenery, costumes and principal cast from that performance. Soprano Georgia McEver (pictured) as Susannah and bass-baritone Rick Piersall as the Reverend Blitch got rave reviews for their performances in Colorado, and if the company's past record is any predictor, Susannah should be a good show and help slake the thirst for first-rate opera in the Triangle. For tickets and information call 560-3030 or 560-5170.

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