Floyd, Carlisle (Sessions, Jr.)

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Floyd, Carlisle (Sessions, Jr.)

Floyd, Carlisle (Sessions, Jr.), esteemed American composer; b. Latta, S.C., June 11, 1926. He was a student of Ernst Bacon at Syracuse Univ. (Mus.B., 1946; Mus.M, 1949), and also received private instruction in piano from Rudolf Firkusny and Sydney Foster. After teaching at Fla. State Univ. in Tallahassee (from 1947), he became prof. of music at the Univ. of Houston in 1976. Floyd’s opera Susannah (1953–54; Tallahassee, Feb. 24, 1955) established his reputation as a composer of dramatic works, and in 1956 it won the N.Y. Music Critics Circle Award. In subsequent years, it became one of the most widely performed American operas at home and abroad. Floyd also won critical acclaim for his opera Of Mice and Men, after Steinbeck (1969; Seattle, Jan. 22, 1970). His other stage works included the musical play Slow Dusk (1948–49; Syracuse, May 1949) and the operas Wuthering Heights (Santa Fe, July 16, 1958), The Passion of Jonathan Wade (N.Y., Oct. 11, 1962; rev. 1989; Houston, Jan. 18, 1991), Markheim (New Orleans, March 31, 1966), Bilby’s Doll (Houston, Feb. 28, 1976), The Sojourner and Mollie Sinclair (Raleigh, N.C., Dec. 2, 1976), Willie Stark (Houston, April 24, 1981), and Cold Sassy Tree (Houston, April 14, 2000). He also wrote some instrumental and vocal pieces, but it is as a composer for the theater that Floyd has secured his place in American music. His stage works, all written to his own libretti, reveal a mastery of dramatic writing in an accessible style.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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