As our regular readers will know, my tastes in contemporary opera tend toward the middle of the 20th century, and are broad in a very specific way. In other words, there are but a handful of modern composers I like (Menotti, Britten, Stravinsky), but those particular composers I really like.
The American composer Samuel Barber was best known for "Adagio for Strings," but was also a respected composer of opera - Vansessa being probably his most popular and well-received. He was respected enough that he received a commission from the Metropolitan Opera to write an opera for the opening of the new house at Lincoln Center in 1966. That composition - Antony and Cleopatra - did indeed christen the new Met, and promptly dropped out of site, never to be performed at the Met (or most anywhere else) again. A revision in the mid-70s proved somewhat more popular, in that it's at least been done more than once.
Which is why I found this article by David Patrick Stearns to be so interesting. Seems that the hottest opera ticket in Philadelphia this year is - Antony and Cleopatra. Stearns provides some fascinating insight into this famous (or infamous) opera, with some revisionist history regarding that "disasterous" Met opening (which may not have been that disasterous - it received enthusiastic applause at the premiere), and one man's opinion that A&C might be Barber's most mature work, and one of his most powerful.
That 1966 version is nowhere to be found save the Met archives (the Philly production is the 74 revision), but here is the star from that opening night, the brilliant and overpowering Leontyne Price, singing "Give Me My Robe" from Paris, 1968. ◙