San Francisco Opera presents the world premiere of Antony and Cleopatra by John Adams on Saturday, September 10, with performances through October 5. From Nixon’s composer in China, this new work is an international co-commission and co-production with the Metropolitan Opera, Liceu Opera Barcelona and Teatro Massimo Palermo created especially for the San Francisco Opera’s 100th season which opens September 9 with a gala concert and an opera ball. The September 18 matinee performance of Antony and Cleopatra will be broadcast live and available on demand for 48 hours. Virtual tickets for the livestream will go on sale later this month.
The libretto of Antony and Cleopatra is adapted from Shakespeare’s drama by the composer with consultation from Elkhanah Pulitzer and Lucia Scheckner. San Francisco Opera Musical Director Caroline H. Hume, Eun Sun Kim, will conduct this highly anticipated new work. The cast is led by Egyptian soprano Amina Edris creating the role of Cleopatra and Adams collaborators, bass-baritone Gerald Finley as Antony and tenor Paul Appleby as Caesar. Chorus director John Keene prepares the San Francisco Opera Chorus to represent the peoples of Rome and Alexandria.
John Adams said: “I am proud to continue my longstanding collaboration with San Francisco Grand Opera with this fifth opera the company has presented over the years. Antony and Cleopatra is a story that not only embraces the intimate and the human, but also geopolitics and the clash of civilizations. As is always the case with Shakespeare, his themes reflect the very realities of life as we live them right now.
Director Elkhanah Pulitzer’s production presents the story’s political battles and famous love affair of these ancient characters through an updated setting inspired by 1930s Hollywood glamour. will enhance the characters’ larger-than-life public personas, while Cleopatra, Antony and Caesar are lit up in their intimate interactions amid the growing tension and fierce pulse of Adams’ score. Pulitzer leads a production team consisting of Tony Award-winning set designer and MacArthur Fellow Mimi Lien, costume designer Constance Hoffman, lighting designer David Finn, projection designer Bill Morrison, and sound designer and mixing engineer Mark Gray .
Antony and Cleopatra adds a new chapter to the historic connection between the San Francisco Opera and one of the world’s most eminent composers. John Adams’ Doctor Atomic (2005) and Girls of the Golden West (2017) were commissioned by the Company and had their world premieres at the War Memorial Opera House, while The Death of Klinghoffer, a co-commission by the Opera of San Francisco, and Nixon in China were presented here in 1992 and 2012, respectively. Now celebrating his 75th birthday, the composer and Bay Area resident was honored this summer with the release of John Adams’ Collected Works Nonesuch Records, a 40-CD box set featuring orchestral, chamber music and opera recordings. spanning more than four decades.
Born in Egypt and raised in New Zealand, soprano Amina Edris is one of the most exciting young stars on the opera scene today. After recent triumphs as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata for the Canadian Opera Company and with the Paris Opera in Platée by Rameau and the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence as Adalgisa in Norma by Bellini , Edris returns to the San Francisco Opera as Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. The former Merola Opera Program participant (2015) and San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow (2016, 2017) has performed numerous roles on stage at the War Memorial Opera House, including an acclaimed Juliet in 2019 in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, opposite to her husband’s Romeo, tenor Pene Pati.
Edris is a featured artist in San Francisco Opera’s Webby People’s Voice 2022 award-winning video portrait series, In Song. Filmed on location in her native Cairo, In Song: Amina Edris follows the soprano’s journey from a childhood steeped in Arabic music to her emergence as an operatic soprano. Watch the 19-minute episode for free here: sfopera.com/online/in-song/amina-edris.
Gerald Finley is Roman general and ruler Antony, who clings to his passion for Cleopatra even as his political life crumbles. Finley made his San Francisco Opera debut in 2005 in Adams’ Doctor Atomic as J. Robert Oppenheimer, a role he has performed around the world and is preserved on DVD in two different productions. and on a recent CD conducted by the composer. Known for his moving performances on stage in a vast repertoire encompassing works from Mozart and Rossini to Wagner, Bartok, Debussy and Adams, the Canadian bass-baritone is also an acclaimed lieder singer and recitalist. New York Magazine paid tribute to his consummate artistry, saying that Finley “…sings with the smooth baritone of a man on the verge of legend.”
Tenor Paul Appleby made his Company debut in 2015 as Tamino in Mozart’s The Magic Flute and returned in 2017 as Joe Cannon in the world premiere of Adams’ Girls of the Golden West. A founding member of the American Modern Opera Company and a graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, Appleby has performed a varied repertoire with the Metropolitan Opera, including the title role in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande and, more recently, Grimoaldo in Rodelinda by Handel. . Hailed for his “bold and fiery” voice (Mercury News), Appleby takes on the role of young Caesar, Octavius.
Bass-baritone Alfred Walker has performed with the San Francisco Opera in Strauss’ Elektra, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel and Puccini’s Tosca. He returns as Antoine’s confidant, Enobarbus. Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong, who starred in The Gospel According to Another Mary of Adams with the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under the composer’s baton, portrays Caesar’s sister Octavia, married to Antony as part of of a political alliance. DeShong’s previous San Francisco Opera appearances include Orsini in Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia and Suzuki in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.
Baritone Hadleigh Adams is Caesar’s attendant, Agrippa, and tenor Brenton Ryan is Eros, a disciple of Antony. Bass-baritone Philip Skinner plays Lepidus, the third Triumvir with Caesar and Antony who ruled Rome before Caesar’s rise as dictator. Rounding out the cast are mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven as Cleopatra’s confidante Charmian and bass Patrick Blackwell as Roman Maecenas, both in their early days with the company, and current Adler Fellows of the ‘San Francisco Opera Gabrielle Beteag as Iras and Timothy Murray as Scarus.
Now in her second season as the San Francisco Opera’s Music Director, Eun Sun Kim leads the orchestra, chorus and cast. Named New York Times Breakout Star 2021, Kim’s podium work leading Tosca for the company was praised by the San Francisco Chronicle: “New music director Eun Sun Kim took control of the score and led a performance breathtaking intensity, subtle mood shifts and piquant details.” With Antoine et Cléopâtre, she will conduct Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites (October 15-30) and new productions of Verdi’s La Traviata (November 11-December 3) and Puccini’s Madame Butterfly (June 3-July 1, 2023) with the Company this season, as well as multiple concerts including the opening concert (September 9).
Free opportunities to experience Eun Sun Kim leading the San Francisco Opera during the centennial season include the Opera in the Park concert at Golden Gate Park (September 11) and Opera Live at the Ballpark simulcast at the park Oracle of La Traviata (November 11). For more information on the San Francisco Opera Centennial, visit sfopera.com.
The seven performances of Antoine et Cléopâtre are scheduled for September 10 (7:30 p.m.), 15 (7:30 p.m.), 6 (2 p.m.), 23 (7:30 p.m.), 27 (7:30 p.m.); 2 (2 p.m.), 5 (7:30 p.m.) October 2022.