SOUTH CAROLINIANA LIBRARY
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MANUSCRIPTS DIVISION 2002
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Carlisle Floyd Papers, 1946-2000 [Addition to]
Two and one-half linear feet of material - - spanning the period 1946-2000 and consisting of letters, notes, printed items (librettos, stagebills, recital programs, news clippings, magazine articles), photographs, and audio tapes - - added to the papers of Carlisle Floyd (b. 1926) constitute a key accession to the Library's holdings on this Latta native (and 1943 graduate of North High School, one-time resident of Holly Hill, and Converse College student) who has become the most frequently performed opera composer and librettist in America and is considered "one of the world's foremost living opera composers" [Richard Turp, Montreal, in Infoguilde, April 1999]. In 1999 music critic Daniel Webster of the Philadelphia Inquirer called Floyd "the leading voice in 20th-century American opera." He went on to observe - - "Opera is, for Floyd, universal themes embodied by ordinary characters moving in a musical plan that naturally absorbs opera's tradition of melody, arias, duets and coherent scenes focused on expressing emotion. As a result, Floyd, the South Carolina outsider, is suddenly having the kind of recognition Verdi enjoyed in midlife" [Boosey & Hawkes Newsletter, January 1999].
Opera programs, press kits, reviews, correspondence, and other items further document the numerous major North American and European productions of Floyd's operas between 1958 and 2000. Among them are those of "Susannah" staged in San Diego (1981), Knoxville (1986), Orlando (1987), Tulsa (1989), Kansas City (1991), Chicago (1993), Houston and Vienna (1996), Berlin and Nantes (1997), New Jersey (Opera Festival), Montreal and - - after more than four decades - - New York's Metropolitan Opera (1999), Louisville (2000); of "Of Mice and Men" in Seattle (1970), Cincinnati (1971), Wexford (1980), Des Moines (1985), Miami (1986), Cooperstown (Glimmerglass Opera) and San Jose (1997), New York (1998), San Diego, Salt Lake City and Cleveland (1999), Nantes (2000); of "Bilby's Doll" in Houston (1976 and 1992) and Omaha (1976); of "Willie Stark" in Houston, Washington, D.C., on PBS television's "Great Performances" (1981), and in Charlotte (1985).
Of special interest is material relating to the 1990 Houston and 1999 San Diego productions of Floyd's revised version of "The Passion of Jonathan Wade," which is set in Civil War Columbia. In addition to stagebills, press releases, notices and reviews, the files on this opera contain handwritten production notes, libretto summary and revisions, costume sketches, and historical illustrations used in set designs. In a letter of 15 May 1990 to Floyd in Houston, Ian D. Campbell, general director of the San Diego Opera, tells him how delighted he was "with acts two and three of The Passion of Jonathan Wade in the workshop last Sunday" and goes on to say - - "From the time I first heard the original version, and read your remarkable libretto, I have felt that this is truly the American opera for the 1990s, and I am even more convicted of that view having seen the workshop and experienced the even finer version which you are putting together." He concludes - - "All of us at San Diego Opera are proud to be a part of this production, and we look forward to this most exciting event in our 1991 season."
This addition brings, as well, the beginning of an archive on Floyd's latest musical drama, "Cold Sassy Tree," which premiered in Houston in 2000. Among the items in this unit are a marked copy of Floyd's own twelve-page compilation of "thoughts with regard to a libretto for a proposed opera, a comedy-drama, to be based on the novel Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns," which he submitted in 1997 to his colleague David Gockley, general director of Houston Grand Opera and co-founder of the Houston Opera Studio. Also included here are marked copies of a working draft of the libretto and of the music score for the first act (1998), a revised published version of the entire musical play (1999), and four audio tapes of a 1999 Aspen workshop production of it.
A small file adds further information on a sampling of performances of Floyd's miscellaneous shorter works, notably his 1966-67 "Introduction, Aria and Dance for Orchestra" (Orlando, 1972); his song cycle "The Mystery" (St. Paul, 1974); his fifty-minute, one-act monodrama, "Flower and Hawk" (Milwaukee, 1978; Winston-Salem, 1985); the song cycle "Citizen of Paradise: A Musical Portrait of Emily Dickinson" (premier performance at Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pa., 1983; Houston, 1986; New York [Carnegie Hall], 1993); and the nearly half-hour work "A Time to Dance: Reflections on Mortality," Floyd's first major contribution to the repertoire of large concert works for chorus and orchestra (performed in San Antonio in 1993 at the national convention of the American Choral Directors Association). On the latter, Charles Hausmann of the University of Houston School of Music wrote to congratulate him, 7 March 1993 - - "I just returned from the ACDA convention in San Antonio. Along with thousands of other choral conductors, I had the opportunity to hear the world premiere of 'A Time to Dance.' It truly is a 'fantastic' piece! The varied texts are expressively and dramatically represented by your music. In addition, I enjoyed the various choral and orchestral sonorities you so masterfully achieved." And critic Mark Gresham would later say of Floyd and this work - - "Floyd's capacity as a word-smith...is equal to his skills as a composer, and the cycle of texts chosen shows a wide range of emotional responses to death, yet works beautifully as a unified whole. His musical language...is at once quite challenging yet ultimately vocally practical, suited to the choral instrument. Floyd's musical language is unabashedly emotive, one of full-blooded expressiveness."
Among other items of particular note is a file of typescripts containing two short stories and a research paper (on musical criticism) written by Floyd. The short stories - - "The Woman and the Romans" and "A Lengthening Shadow" - - were written in Holly Hill, presumably in the mid-1940s. Further specimens of his student writings are present here in published form in four literary journals published by Converse and Wofford in 1943 and 1944. The Winter 1944 issue of We, the Freshmen features Converse student Floyd's autobiographical sketch entitled "Low-Country Town," in which he declares - - "I took this low-country town for granted when I lived within the shadow of its street lights, but now I have an entirely different perspective, and I know that this and all that is attached to it is in me now to stay. It is a growth that cannot be destroyed without destroying me with it."
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