Antony and Cleopatra (opera)

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Antony and Cleopatra is an opera in three acts by American composer Samuel Barber. The libretto was prepared by Franco Zeffirelli. It was based on the play Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare and made use of Shakespeare's language exclusively.

The opera was first performed on September 16, 1966, at the opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. After an unsuccessful premiere, the opera was extensively revised by Barber and Gian Carlo Menotti in an edition first performed in 1975.

Performance history[edit]

For the premiere, which was also the opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House, no expense was spared. Franco Zeffirelli was hired as stage director. Thomas Schippers was the conductor. The stage design and costumes were elaborate; the cast was enormous including 22 singers, a full chorus, and a troupe of ballet dancers.

The opera was poorly received by the press, and not enthusiastically received by the public (Freeman 1997, 15; Heyman 1992b). Among the reasons cited for the opera's lack of success were an "inflated production with problematic technical apparatus, gaudy costumes, overcrowded stage forces and a press overly attentive to the social glitter of the occasion" (Heyman 1992a). The opera was dropped from the Met's repertory after the initial performances of the production.

Barber later revised the opera, with text revisions by Gian-Carlo Menotti, Barber's partner and the librettist of his first opera, Vanessa (Heyman 1992a). This version was premiered under Menotti's direction at the Juilliard American Opera Center on February 6, 1975 (Freeman 1997, 15). There were further productions at the Spoleto Festival USA and Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy, in 1983, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1991 (Heyman 1992a).

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere Cast, September 16, 1966
(Conductor: Thomas Schippers)
Cleopatra soprano Leontyne Price
Mark Antony baritone Justino Diaz
Octavius Caesar tenor Jess Thomas
Enobarbus bass Ezio Flagello
Charmian, servant to Cleopatra mezzo-soprano Rosalind Elias
Iras mezzo-soprano Belén Amparan
Mardian tenor Andrea Velis
Messenger tenor Paul Franke
Alexas bass Raymond Michalski
Soothsayer Lorenzo Alvary
Rustic Clifford Harvuot
Octavia Mary Ellen Pracht
Maecenas Russell Christopher
Agrippa John Macurdy
Lepidus tenor Robert Nagy
Thidias Robert Goodloe
Soldier of Caesar Gabor Carelli
Eros Bruce Scott
Dolabella Gene Boucher
Canidius baritone Lloyd Strang
Demetrius Norman Giffin
Scarus Ron Bottcher
Decretas Louis Sgarro
Captain of the Guard Dan Marek
Guard 1 Robert Schmorr
Guard 2 Edward Ghazal
Guard 3 Norman Scott
Soldier of Antony John Trehy
Watchman 1 Paul De Paola
Watchman 2 Luis Forero
Sentinel Peter Sliker

Recordings[edit]

  • Samuel Barber: Two Scenes from Antony and Cleopatra, Op. 40 ["Give Me Some Music" and "Give Me My Robe"], Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Op. 24. Leontyne Price, soprano; New Philharmonia Orchestra, Thomas Schippers, conductor, recorded 1968[citation needed] (LP recording, stereo, RCA Red Seal LSC-3062, 1969)
  • Antony and Cleopatra (complete 1975 edition). Esther Hinds, soprano, Jeffrey Wells, bass; The Spoleto Festival Orchestra and Westminster Choir (Joseph Flummerfelt, chorus master), Christian Badea, conductor. Recorded during the 1983 Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy (2-CD set, stereo, New World Records NW 322/23/24-2, 1984)

References[edit]

  • Freeman, John W. (1997). The Metropolitan Opera Stories of the Great Operas. New York: W. W. Norton Co. ISBN 0-393-04051-8
  • Heyman, Barbara B. (1992a). "Antony and Cleopatra". The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, 4 vols., edited by Stanley Sadie; managing editor, Christina Bashford. London: Macmillan Press. ISBN 0-935859-92-6
  • Heyman, Barbara B. (1992b). "Barber, Samuel". The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, 4 vols., edited by Stanley Sadie; managing editor, Christina Bashford. London: Macmillan Press. ISBN 0-935859-92-6
  • Heyman, Barbara B. (1995). Samuel Barber: The Composer and His Music. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509058-6
  • Kolodin, Irving (1966). "Music to my Ears: Barber’s Antony, after Zeffirelli". Saturday Review (October 1).
  • Schonberg, Harold C. (September 17, 1966). "Onstage, It Was 'Antony and Cleopatra'; New Opera by Barber a Bit Lost in Shuffle". New York Times.

External links[edit]