On today's date in 1926, the American opera composer Carlisle Floyd was born in Latta, South Carolina. Floyd's ancestors were among the first to settle in the Carolinas, and many of his dozen or so operas are based on colonial, southern, or rural themes. For three decades Floyd taught piano and composition at the University of Florida in Tallahassee, and it was there that his most famous opera, "Susannah," was initially staged in 1955.
"Susannah" was an American retelling of the Biblical tale of Susannah and the elders, set in rural America. It was a tremendous success, and was soon taken up by the New York City Opera and was chosen to represent American opera at the Brussels World's Fair in 1958. Since its première, "Susannah" has received nearly 300 productions and more than 800 performances in the United States and Europe. Opera America magazine included it among the top ten "most performed" American operas of all time.
When pressed once to articulate what it is about his music that strikes many listeners as quintessentially "American," Carlisle Floyd answers, "I'm probably the worst person to ask. I've never really set out consciously to write 'American' music. I don't know what that would be unless you mean the obvious Appalachian folk references in a good many of my pieces. I can tell you, however, that when I've seen my operas in Europe they have always struck me as more American than when I hear them here."
Music Played in Today's Program
Carlisle Floyd (b. 1926)SusannahSoloists and Lyon Opera Orchestra; Kent Nagano, cond.Virgin 45039