Barber: Antony and Cleopatra (Met Live CD) – Leontyne Price, Justino Díaz

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Item: 811357018231


Barber: Antony and Cleopatra (Met Live CD) – Leontyne Price, Justino Díaz

Composer: Samuel Barber
Artists: Leontyne Price, Justino Díaz, Jess Thomas, Ezio Flagello, Russell Christopher, John Macurdy, Andrea Velis, Rosalind Elias, Mary Ellen Pracht, Paul Franke, Gene Boucher, Raymond Michalski, Lorenzo Alvary, Belén Amparán, Lloyd Strang, Norman Griffin, Louis Sgarro, Ron Bottcher, Robert Goodloe, Bruce Scott, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus
Conductor: Thomas Schippers
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Metropolitan Opera
Release Date: December 13, 2021

World premiere performance, recorded live on September 16, 1966.

“American Opera To Open New Met,” read the headline in the New York Times on May 7, 1964.

Expectations were high when the Metropolitan Opera announced that the world premiere of Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra would christen its new house at Lincoln Center in the fall of 1966 – a suitably grand work based on Shakespeare’s tragedy and written specifically for Leontyne Price as Cleopatra. “Every vowel,” Barber told the New York Times about the role, “was placed with Leontyne’s voice in mind.”

Franco Zeffirelli worked with Barber to distill Shakespeare’s text into a libretto. Zeffirelli also directed and designed the production, to take full advantage of the new Met’s vastly enhanced stage technology and space. 

Yet when Antony and Cleopatra opened the new Met on the glittering night of Friday, September 16, 1966, with Thomas Schippers conducting, the reviews were disappointing. Zeffirelli’s gigantic (and malfunctioning) sets took the brunt. Inevitably, the production cast a shadow over Barber’s epic score and the heroic performances of Price and an equally remarkable cast. The Texaco-Metropolitan Opera Radio Network broadcast the opening night performance to 130 radio stations across the U.S., so the recording of the broadcast heard here allows listeners to make their own judgments. 

“The musical proceedings,” wrote Irving Kolodin, music critic for the Saturday Review, “gain in interest without the distraction of the scenery and staging.” Kolodin was particularly moved by the opera’s tragic power in its final scene, writing that “in the spirit of the poet he essentially is, Barber has embalmed this emotion in a pensive essence of elegy, with a rich intersticing of instrumental silver among the vocal gold.”

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