Carlisle Floyd’s Prince of Players was originally written for the Opera Studio in Houston as a chamber work. It was subsequently reworked as a full scale piece and taken up by Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera where it was performed and recorded in 2018. It’s a two act piece with a libretto by the composer that deals with the transition from men playing women on stage to the roles being taken by women for the first time in the reign of Charles II. It’s framed by the final scene of Shakespeare’s Othello. First time around Desdemona is played by noted actor Ned Kynaston to rapturous applause and praise from the king. The rest of the first act is the story of how Charles; influenced by his mistress and aspiring actor Nell Gwynn and the much more talented Meg Hughes who, to complicate matters, is Kynaston’s dresser and secretly in love with him, decides that times must change and women must play women on the stage. The act culminates in a confrontation between the king and Kynaston where the latter accuses the former of destroying his art and livelihood and the theatre with it. The king is unrelenting. This act is tight and well crafted with quite a lot of humour as well as some pathos.
Prince of Players