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Cold Sassy Tree

5.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 1, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

Cold Sassy Tree, Carlisle Floyd's first crack at writing a comic opera, is taken from Olive Ann Burns' delightful exploration of youthful old age and set in an America affectionately drawn. As always, he has written his own libretto, drawing upon his own theatrical instincts that have been nourished simultaneously with his music. Like five of the six Floyd operas that preceded it, Cold Sassy Tree is about American attitudes, characters - and the joy of language. Like all the work the preceded it, the music is about expressive clarity, lyricism and the value of song. According to Daniel Webster, “Floyd writes popular opera. Not pandering opera, but theater pieces strapped tight with technical virtuosity, yet sounding innocent and natural…” Carlisle Floyd comments that “In dramatizing the book for the stage, there were two undergirding themes in particular from the novel that I wanted to deal with. First was the astonishing capacity human beings possess for change! and growth, and the second was the healing and transforming power of love. When the book first appeared one reviewer aptly described Ms. Burns' novel as the story of an old man growing young and a young man growing up and the woman who, without intending to, becomes the catalyst for both. This general description holds true, I hope, for the opera as well.” This recording represents a major addition to the opera discography.

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Cold Sassy Tree


Product Details

  • Performer: Patricia Racette, Dean Peterson, Carlisle Floyd, Patrick Summers, Houston Grand Opera Orchestra & Chorus, et al.
  • Audio CD (August 1, 2005)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Albany Records
  • ASIN: B000A139DO
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,376 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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I saw this production during its premiere at Houston Grand Opera -- what a wonderful opera this is. The recording, being a live one, has some infrequent stage noise that can distract you, but otherwise it is of great quality. Peterson, Racette and McVeigh all sing quite well, and the music is marvelous. One of my favorites is mezzo Judith Christin who sings the comic role of Effie Belle Tate with great zest. I would hope this opera enters the repetoire and more people get to see and hear it.
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Carlisle Floyd has once again showed us all how a wonderful story about American life can be reenergized by a startlingly beautiful musical score. Its expansive underpinnings allow Bass Dean Peterson to explore all the possibilities of vocal interpretation in the character of Rucker Lattimore, which he does with great beauty. In the end of Act I with the sermon scene Peterson takes dramatic singing to a new height. Pat Racette again shows us the type of singing that takes our breath away, especially in the powerful and dramatic second act. And John Mcveigh shows us a dexterity in vocal and interpretive singing that few tenors share today. This is a long awaited, and very much appreciated addition to our American musical heritage and cudos must go again to Carlisle Floyd.
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Carlisle Floyd is a national treasure. Time and time again, he has proved to be a composer of American theater at its best, combining superb orchestration with beautiful libretti (mostly written by himself) and affecting vocal writing. That this is his first attempt at comedy in no way diminishes any of those powers.

Having been involved in the original stage production (of which this CD is a live recording), I can testify firsthand to Floyd's commitment to the singers and their needs; while his vocal writing can certainly be challenging, it is never unreasonable. This commitment results in music that is gratifying not only to the performers, but to the listeners as well; there is nothing that negatively assaults the ear or intellect, and the listener is thus left free to pay attention to the drama.

The cast could hardly be bettered. One only laments that there is no companion DVD, for the onstage chemistry, particularly between Peterson, Racette, and McVeigh was palpable and utterly moving. However, the CD affords us a more than satisfactory testament to their vocal characterizations. In all my years in the business, I can think of few more touching, tear-jerking moments than the end of the second act.

Floyd's treatment of the novel is something I don't feel qualified to comment on, as I have not read it, but I can say that his opera holds up on its own, even without previous acquaintance with the novel.

I highly recommend this CD.
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Patricia racette and carlisle floyd perfect match it's a wonderful heat felt story.
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Beautiful work by everyone involved. Difficult music performed well. Not Floyd's best work, but story is worth the opera's performance.
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