The Berkeley-based composer John Adams is known for operas about recent events, be it his breakthrough Nixon in China, or its follow-up, The Death of Klinghoffer. So with a world premiere in San Francisco of his new opera, based on the story of Antony and Cleopatra, people may wonder: how will this distinctly modern composer tackle one of the world's oldest and most famous love stories?
The answer depends on just how much you associate love with light, happy melodies and swooning duets, largely absent in Antony and Cleopatra. The opera, which opened Sept. 10, leans into the story’s political battles rather than the romance between the two title characters, played by Anima Edris and Gerald Finley. Their romantic chemistry is reflected less on stage than in the text, adapted from Shakespeare—and even then, their love seems to blossom more in death than in life.