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Carlisle Floyd, now 90 years old, is keen for his complete operatic output to be recorded in his lifetime. So Florentine Opera (Milwaukee) has done him proud with Wuthering Heights, his second opera, composed in 1958 in response to the assumption that he was working on the complete work – he had just written a concert aria, based on an excerpt of the novel, for Phyllis Curtin to perform. The opera is effective, but has suffered from comparison with Floyd’s first stage work, Susannah, noted for its American style. The same musical hand is obvious here and it perhaps translates less well to Yorkshire. The tone becomes noticeably more expansive and post-Romantic for the climactic scenes between Heathcliffand Cathy, but otherwise it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Nelly and Joseph suddenly started a barn dance.

Kelly Markgraf makes a suitably dominant Heathcliff, Georgia Jarman a vibrant Cathy, Suzanne Mentzer a stalwart Nelly. Floyd was his own librettist and only uses the first section of Emily Brontë’s novel (echoing William Wyler’s 1939 film), but I can’t help feeling that despite its operatically fevered subject, the story just isn’t containable on the lyric stage; Kate Bush perhaps had a better idea, condensing her own interpretation to under four intense minutes of yowled madness.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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