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Ausrine Stundyte as Cio-Cio-San, Elizabeth Janes as Butterfly’s child and Sarah Larsen as Suzuki in Seattle Opera's production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. Photo by Elise Bakketun.
North American Works Directory Listing
Bilby's Doll
Carlisle Floyd
Composer, librettist, pianist, and teacher Carlisle Floyd has written operas for many of America’s cherished stories, basing much of his subject matter on Southern themes. Born in the Southern Bible Belt of Latta, South Carolina, he grew up in the thick of traveling preachers, revival meetings, and a close knit religious community, though at a young age was aware of that world’s controversial and hypocritical nature. Floyd’s primary teacher was pianist Ernst Bacon whom he followed from South Carolina to Syracuse University in New York where he earned a Bachelor and a Master of Music. He immediately joined the piano faculty of Florida State University where he began exploring an interest in composition, writing both the libretti and the music for operas with a distinctly American voice. He achieved national recognition with Susanna, which premiered at Florida State University in 1955.

Today Carlisle Floyd’s operas are performed throughout America and Europe and Susanna and Of Mice and Men have become standard repertoire. Floyd was one of eight recipients of the National Medal of Arts in 2004. He is also the winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Citation of Merit from the National Association of American Conductors and Composers and the National Opera Institute’s Award for Service to American Opera. In 2008, Floyd was the only composer to be included in the inaugural National Endowment for the Arts Opera Honors.
Carlisle Floyd
David Pountney (Director) Christopher Keene (Conductor)
Catherine Malfitano (Doll Bilby)
Joy Davidson (Hannah Bilby)
Jacque Trussel (Shad)
Alan Titus (Titus Thumb)
Samuel Ramey (Mr. Zelley)
Thomas Paul (Jared Bilby)
Barrie Smith (Mrs. Thumb)
Nell Evans (Goody Goochy)
Dale Smith (Town Crier)
Thomas Page (Deacon Thumb)
David Cornell (Mr. Increase Mather)
Jon Enloc (Silas)
February 27, 1976
Houston Grand Opera
Doll Bilby is brought to Massachusetts from France as a small child by her foster father, Jared Bilby. Her jealous foster mother Hannah, engulfed in the witch fever that has swept the colony, condemns Doll as a witch. Titus Thumb, a young ministerial student, falls in love with Doll and proposes marriage in hopes of saving Doll from persecution. Doll opposes the marriage and, in order to convince Titus that she must not marry him, reveals that her mother and father were burned as witches in France and that she, too, may become a witch in time. Unsure of her identity and fate, Doll implores God and Satan to send her a sign. Shad, the local minister's son, overhearing her prayers, appears to her as a demon lover. They marry and Doll embraces witchhood as her destiny. Months later, Doll is arrested for believed acts of witchcraft. Titus begs her to renounce her witchhood and go away with him to be his wife. Doll declares that she is already married to a demon and is carrying his child. Refusing to renounce her heritage and her believed demon husband, Doll dies in prison during childbirth.
The New York Times, Allen Hughes, 2-29-76
2 fl (picc), 2 ob (Eng hrn), 2 cl, 2 bsn - 4 hrn, 2 tpt, 2 tbn, tba - perc, pf, hp - str
Tonal, with some polytonal elements; lyrical; quartal harmonies; melodies imitative of American folk idioms; some chromaticism; metric flexibility.
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