Carlisle Floyd is one of the foremost composers and librettists of opera in the United States today. Born in 1926, Floyd earned B.M. and M.M. degrees in piano and composition Syracuse University. He began his teaching career in 1947 at Florida State University, remaining there until 1976, when he accepted the prestigious M. D. Anderson Professorship in the University of Houston. In addition, he is co-founder with David Gockley of the Houston Opera Studio jointly created by the University of Houston and Houston Grand Opera. Floyd’s operas are regularly performed in the US and Europe. He first achieved national prominence with the New York premiere of his opera, Susannah (1953–54), by the New York City Opera in 1956 after its world premiere at Florida State University in 1955. In 1957 it won the New York Music Critic’s Circle Award and subsequently was chosen to be America’s official operatic entry at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Of Mice and Men (1969) is Floyd’s other most often performed work. In the 1998-99 season alone it was presented by New York City Opera, Utah Opera, San Diego Opera, and Cleveland Opera. Based on the Steinbeck novel, it was commissioned by the Ford Foundation and was given its premiere by the Seattle Opera in 1970. Floyd’s more recent operas, Bilby’s Doll (1976) and Willie Stark (1981), were both commissioned and produced by the Houston Grand Opera, the latter in association with the Kennedy Center.
Producing Susanne Mentzer's CD of Floyd's songs was a great joy. I never release a CD that I don't personally learn something from, and I learned so much working with Susanne, a great artist and studying Floyd's songs.
Classic Talk with Susanne
"World-premiere recordings of song cycles by Carlisle Floyd are expertly and lovingly detailed
by mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer. With exemplary diction,
Mentzer's voice is in great shape, and her connection to the material and
internalization of the poetry are complete.
Mentzer's singing is sincere and robust, and she manages extremes of range
with technical expertise, bringing evenness and clarity to both highs and lows with smoothness and lyricism.
She enjoys the often thorny poetry without ever over-intellectualizing."
"With a commitment that rivals Smetana's in Bohemia or Britten's in Britain, [Floyd] has striven to create a national repertory … He has learned the international language of successful opera in order to speak it in his own accents and to enrich it with the musical and vernacular idioms of his own country."
Andrew Porter, The New Yorker
“It is my opinion that Susannah and the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess mark the two finest American operas ever composed. It brings me great joy and satisfaction to bring Carlisle’s important work to San Francisco Opera’s main stage season where it rightfully belongs.”
I went to school at night
Carlisle and Susanne