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. A singer himself, the composer knew Price’s voice and what it could do, shaping his conception of the opera’s heroine around this iconic American diva. The 26-year-old Puerto Rican–born bass Justino Díaz starred alongside Price as Antony while Ezio Flagello portrayed Antony’s friend Enobarbus. Tenor Jess Thomas brought his heroic presence to the role of Octavius Caesar, and the beloved mezzo-soprano Rosalind Elias, already a Met veteran in her 30s, sang the role of Cleopatra’s attendant Charmian. Thanks to a Texaco–Metropolitan Opera Radio Network broadcast from the opera’s world premiere, this indelible piece of Met history has been preserved for generations.
Sep 16, 1966
Franco Zeffirelli, based on the play Antony and Cleopatra by Shakespeare
1 HRS 59 MIN
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus