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Antony and Cleopatra

opera in three acts

Music by Samuel Barber
Libretto by Franco Zeffirelli
after the play by William Shakespeare
About Antony and Cleopatra

Barber's last opera was commissioned for the opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, and was the first piece played at the new house. Unlike his other operas, which were to librettos by Barber's partner, Gian Carlo Menotti, the libretto to Antony and Cleopatra was written by well-known stage director Franco Zefferelli. The libretto, and Zefferelli's overdone production, took much of the blame for the work's poor reception, which was especially surprising compared to the raves that greeted Barber's first opera the the Met, Vanessa.

A heavily revised version of the opera, with the libretto reworked by Menotti, premiered in 1975 to somewhat better reviews.


Both versions of the opera roughly follow the outlines of Shakespeare's play, although many of the scenes in Rome (including most of the role of Caesar) were cut in the 1975 revision.

In Rome, Antony agrees to marry Caesar's sister, Octavia; however, he is still in love with Cleopatra, queen of Egypt. Antony returns to Egypt with Cleopatra, and Caesar attacks. Caesar is victorious, and Antony falls on his sword, thinking Cleopatra has killed herself. Cleopatra herself, to avoid being humiliated by being dragged through Rome, allows herself to be bitten by an asp and dies.

Performance History
World premiere
Metropolitan Opera, New York, New York
September 16, 1966
Revised version premiere
Julliard School, New York, New York
Discography Search for recordings of Antony and Cleopatra at Amazon.com

Samuel Barber

Antony and Cleopatra


2 CD / New World Records NW322/23/24-2 (1992)

Samuel Barber: "Give me my robe" from Antony and Cleopatra


Alessandra Marc

Opera Gala

CD / Delos 3240 (2000)

Samuel Barber: "Give me my robe" from Antony and Cleopatra


Leontyne Price

The Essential Leontyne Price: Her Greatest Roles

2 CD / BMG/RCA Victor 68154 (1998)

Samuel Barber: "Give me some music"


Dawn Upshaw

The World So Wide

CD / Nonesuch 79458 (1998)

Bibliography Search for book about Antony and Cleopatra at Amazon.com

Samuel Barber: "Hark! the land bids me" from Antony and Cleopatra


G. Schirmer American Opera Anthology: Baritone/Bass

G. Schirmer 2004

Samuel Barber: "The breaking of so great a thing" from Antony and Cleopatra


G. Schirmer American Opera Anthology: Tenor

G. Schirmer 2004

Samuel Barber: "Give me some music" from Antony and Cleopatra


G. Schirmer American Opera Anthology: Soprano

G. Schirmer 2004

Last update: January 11, 2009