Composer. Born in Latta on June 11, 1926, Floyd is the son of a Methodist minister. He entered Converse College in 1943, studying piano with Ernst Bacon. Floyd followed Bacon to Syracuse University in 1945, eventually earning a B.M. (1946) and an M.M. (1949) in piano and composition. After serving on the music faculty at Florida State University (1947– 1976), he was professor of composition at the University of Houston from 1976 until his retirement in 1996. While at FSU, Floyd composed and, in 1955, premiered his opera Susannah. Based on the biblical story of Susannah and the Elders but set in 1950s Tennessee, the work won the New York Music Critics’ Circle Award in 1956 and was the American operatic entry to the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958.
Susannah is the second most frequently performed opera by an American composer, behind George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. A recording on the Virgin Classics label won a Grammy Award in 1994. His opera Of Mice and Men (1969), based on the John Steinbeck novel, has had numerous productions by such opera companies as New York City, Utah, San Diego, and Cleveland. His opera The Passion of Jonathan Wade (1962, revised 1990) is set in Reconstruction-era Columbia.
In addition to being his own librettist, Floyd has composed more than ten stage works, song cycles, music for orchestra and chorus, and music for piano. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship (1956), an honorary doctorate from Dickinson College (1983), and the National Opera Institute’s Award for Service to American Opera (1983). Along with David Gockney, he is codirector of the Houston Opera Studio, a training program for young, aspiring singers and accompanists.
Floyd, Carlisle. Papers. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.
Sadie, Stanley, ed. New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 2d ed. 29 vols. New York: Grove’s Dictionaries, 2001.