Carlisle Floyd

“Ain’t it a pretty night” from Susannah

            Every since the inception of opera as an important genre in Western music, the subjects or “stories” that inform musical drama have largely focused on the exotic, the nobility, historical events, fantasy worlds, and in general, upon mysteries far removed from ordinary lives.  That began to change more or less after WWI with the advent of more “realistic” librettos—in keeping with various contemporary trends toward accessibility in art.  We’ve only to think of Kurt Weill’s “The Threepenny Opera” to confirm the shift in focus.  Of course, this was almost exclusively a European phenomenon.  But, by the 1930s a few steps were taken in the development of a “true” American opera tradition.  Virgil Thompson’s Four Saints in Three Acts (1928) and Gershwin’s Porgy and Be