Composer Carlisle Floyd has died aged 95


(Photo credit: Suzanne Plunkett / Associated press)

Floyd’s first piano teacher was his mother; he also studied with Sidney foster and Rudolf Firkusny. A degree of Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Floyd received his Bachelor of Music degree in 1946, studying with the composer Ernst Bacon.

After Bacon encouraged him to try writing an opera, Floyd composed one based on a short story by him. His first opera, “Slow Dusk”, was premiered with Syracuse University‘s Opera Workshop in 1949. The same year he completed his master’s degree in music. The success of “Slow Dusk” led him to write more than a dozen operas over the next six decades.

His 1955 opera “Susannah” was critically acclaimed and bolstered Floyd, then in his twenties, to international popularity. It was one of the first American operas to be performed in Europe, at the Brussels Exhibition in 1958.

Floyd wrote his own libretto and over the next several years revised “Wuthering Heights” and made his debut. “The passion of Jonathan Wade” for the New York Opera. His non-lyrical works include cycles of song and chorus, a piano sonata, study books and numerous symphonic movements.

He has collaborated with many renowned 20th century artists including Frank Corsaro, Phyllis Curtin, Renée Fleming, David Gockley, Mack Harrell, Robert Holton, Jack O’Brien, Harold Prince, Samuel Ramey, Julius Rudel and Norman Treigle.

Floyd is known for his generosity towards his colleagues; he could always be counted on to help any young artist or artist in crisis, helping them discover their unique voice or resolve. In his 90s, he was the mentor of Mark Adamo, Matt Aucoin, Jake Heggie, Henry Mollicone and Rufus Wainwright.

Floyd taught Florida State University from 1949 to 1976 and later in University of houston for two decades. There, he became co-director of the Houston Grand Opera Studio.

In 2001 he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, followed by National Medal of the Arts in 2004. He was one of the first recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts Opera Honors In 2008.

Floyd and Margery Kay Reeder, his wife of 53, who died in 2010, had no children. Floyd is survived by four nieces, daughters of his sister.

Our condolences to Mr. Floyd’s family, friends, students and colleagues.



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