Slow Dusk
Composer: Carlisle Floyd
Composer Bio: 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.
Librettist: Carlisle Floyd
Other Artistic Personnel: Ruth Ives (Director)
Work Web Site:
Premiere Date: May 02, 1949
Producing Company: Syracuse University
Description: Floyd’s first opera Slow Dusk is a simple, powerful story set in the sand hills of the Carolinas amidst poverty and low-keyed religious fanaticism. The story unfolds around the tragedy of a May afternoon, which alters the course of a young girl’s life.

Aunt Sue, a rough-hewn woman of middle age, opposes the marriage of her niece Sadie to Micah Hatfield, who lives across the pond and who belongs to the Truelights, a different religious sect than the Disciples, to which Sue’s family subscribes.

Sue painfully and patiently gives her niece her reasons for opposing the marriage. Music marks the passing of time from late afternoon until dusk, and in the evening, Sue reports to Sadie that Micah has drowned during the day while fishing. Jess, Sadie’s brother, consoles his aunt who feels guilty from her sense of complicity.

Sadie vows fidelity to Micah’s memory, mourning the emptiness of her life without him.
Character List (Major): AUNT SUE (mz)
JESS (bar)
Reviews: Tallahassee Democrat, David Cook, 7-25-72; Ottowa Citizen, Lauretta Thistle, 6-24-59; Ottowa Journal, 6-24-59; Moline Daily Dispatch, Bill McElwain, 1-12-57
Length: 00:40
Total Acts: 1
Orchestration: 2 fl, 2 ob, 2 cl, 2 bsn - 4 hrn, 2 tpt, 2 tbn - timp, perc, hp - str
Musical Style: Tonal and lyrical; melodies imitative of American folk idioms; metric flexibility; quartal harmonies
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