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Carlisle Floyd: reviews of Prince of Players in Houston

(May 2016)

FloydPrinceofPlayers_LynnLa.jpg Carlisle Floyd's new chamber opera brings his lifetime's experience as an opera composer to reveal an actor's crisis amidst the changing tides of theatrical fashion. 

The world premiere of Prince of Players, the new chamber opera by 90-year-old Carlisle Floyd, brought a rousing ovation for the composer at Houston Grand Opera in March. The production by Michael Gielata, conducted by Patrick Summers, featured singers from Houston Grand Opera Studio, co-founded by Floyd 40 years ago. Further stagings are planned in 2017 at the Little Opera Theater of New York (Feb) and Florida State Opera (Mar/Apr).

The new opera sees the composer exploring gender identity during the reign of Charles II, as a leading actor is cast adrift by the tides of theatrical change:

"…it is the story of Edward Kynaston, one of the last men to play women’s roles on the stage in Restoration England. Charles II’s edict that female parts must henceforth be played by women means that the 26-year-old actor, once the toast of London, is not only out of work, but his whole being, including his sexuality, is called into question… The emotion of a man living the wrong life is carried in the autumnal, transparent orchestration, in which wistful woodwind solos evoke the protagonist’s feminine world."
Wall Street Journal

"…a remarkable achievement for this 90-year-old composer… During Kynaston’s transformative journey from artifice to realism, he goes from being Villiers, Duke of Buckingham’s lover to becoming passionately involved with his former dresser Peg; and from the most celebrated ‘female’ actor of the era to performing in drag at a bawdy pub…"
Opera Now

"Prince of Players shows that Floyd still can champion the lyrical American opera aesthetic that he largely created… the score has evocative touches: the bustling, staccato woodwinds that describe the theater’s backstage activity; the mournful, simple music for oboe and drum that accompanies a bit of King Lear; the ominous tones of Desdemona’s death scene."
Classical Music Review

"Floyd's telling of the story has its eyes wide open to some cruelties beneath its exotic, period-piece exterior. Oppressive gender roles, rigid social prohibitions, and the arbitrariness and damaging consequences of absolute power all leave their scars on Kynaston, so that we are as much awakened to his condition as uplifted by his triumph… an intimate, moving performance."
Opera News

The creation of Prince of Players was surveyed in a series of talks with the composer hosted and streamed by Opera America. The first CD of Floyd’s Wuthering Heights is released this month featuring Florentine Opera on the Reference Recordings label.

>  Further information on Work: Prince of Players

Photo: Houston Grand Opera/Lynn Lane

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