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  • Gockley told NPR.

     Japo_Japo updated 10 months, 2 weeks ago 1 Member · 1 Post
  • Japo_Japo

    October 1, 2021 at 2:16 pm

    Susannah, which won the New York Music Critics Circle Award, put Floyd’s name on the operatic map. It also inspired a younger generation of singers and administrators, like David Gockley, who mounted a production of the work as soon as he became the general director of Houston Grand Opera in 1972.

    Susannah convinced me that there was the opportunity to have an American opera repertoire,” Gockley told NPR.

    In 2000, Gockley premiered Floyd’s Cold Sassy Tree, another opera set in the south. Soprano Patricia Racette sang a lead role in the world premiere. She believes singing Floyd’s distinctly American operas is a gift. “Those stories are ours,” she said from her home in Santa Fe, N.M. “I relish when I get a chance to be part of storytelling that is my own heritage.”

    Although Cold Sassy Tree is a comedy, Racette says her first substantial scene, with the haunting aria “Rented Rooms,” is filled with the drama of escaping poverty.

    “It has an eerie melodic quality to it that is so appropriate to what the character is saying,” Racette says. “The marriage of text and music was so essential to [Floyd]. It wasn’t simply underscoring the text or trying to bring it alive.”

    That was especially true, Curtin says, for “Ain’t it a Pretty Night,” the show-stopping aria from Susannah.

    “‘Ain’t it a Pretty Night’ is perhaps one of the most natural expressions of anything I ever sang,” Curtin said. “It is as genuine and real for anybody in the world, I think.”

    The aria has been sung by countless sopranos. A few of them once gave Carlisle Floyd the compliment of a lifetime.

    “I was told by some singers in New York,” Floyd recalled. “They said, ‘Do you know what we call ‘Ain’t it a Pretty Night’ now? It’s the soprano’s national anthem.'”

    All the more reason Susannah, one of the most performed operas in the U.S., could be a good candidate for the title “The Great American Opera.”

    Racette thinks picking just one is tricky. “If it is not the greatest American opera, it’s certainly among the great American operas,” she says. “He will be known as one of the great, great American composers of all time.”

    Floyd was given many awards during his lifetime, including a Guggenheim fellowship in 1956, the National Medal of Arts in 2004 and a National Endowment for the Arts Opera Honor in 2008.

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