At 85, American composer Carlisle Floyd still has plenty to say about opera.

 

On Saturday evening at the opera, a dapper, 85-year-old Southern gentleman joined cast and crew on stage, visibly moved by the standing ovation and thundering applause that greeted him. The elder statesman of American opera, Carlisle Floyd has made a strong impression on his first trip to Sydney for the national premiere of his masterpiece Of Mice and Men.

Based on the classic John Steinbeck novella, it was completed in 1969 and has since become a major repertory piece in the US, recently surpassing Gershwin’s Porgy and Bessas the country’s most frequently staged opera. But in Australia the composer is hardly known, with lovers of the artform more likely to cite Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire(directed by Bruce Beresford for Opera Australia in 2007) or John Adams’ Nixon in Chinaas staples of American opera than to claim familiarity with Floyd’s many contributions to the genre. Judging by the audience reaction to the triumphant opening night performance on July 23, that’s all set to change.

When I visited Floyd at the Opera Centre...

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