Barber's Tragedy Revisited
21st January 2009
In a feature article that Peter G. Davis wrote for the New York Times on his memories of the world premiere and revised version he mused:
“Still, the best parts of the “Antony” score are so affecting that it’s small wonder people are continually drawn back to it. For one thing, the endings of all three acts are devilishly effective.
The first shows the visionary appearance of Cleopatra’s famous barge on the Nile as it slowly materializes out of a musical mist that weaves together all the lovers’ themes and builds to a glorious climax. Act II ends as Antony attempts suicide on hearing the false news of Cleopatra’s death, a hypnotically understated and daringly minimalist sequence accompanied only by timpani and solo flute. The final pages show Barber at his most lyrically eloquent as Cleopatra expires in what is one of opera’s most moving death scenes, capped by a choral threnody that had some of the audience in tears at the first performance.”
Davis later concludes:
Perhaps one day some sympathetic editor will prepare a third version of “Antony and Cleopatra,” reinstating much of the valuable music that Barber removed while retaining those revisions that are clearly improvements. The opera is also waiting for a director and designer to help us forget about that unfortunate first night, which, more than anything else, turned out to be a fatal collision between two temperamentally mismatched artists: the very public showman Franco Zeffirelli and the very private composer Samuel Barber. There is much musical gold in “Antony and Cleopatra,” and it is still waiting to be properly mined.
To read the complete article click here.
To read the review click here.