“Cleopatra is an extraordinary person. People seem to expect that my Cleopatra will come out of the grand opera tradition, but my take on her is much more mercurial, sexy, vain, a bit like the main character in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
“I wrote to Julia Bullock [who will sing the role at the premiere] and said I hope you have kept the summer free because I have written for you a role as big as Isolde.”
Alas, no more. Bullock, who hinted strongly at being pregnant at her SF Symphony concert on Tuesday, has asked SF Opera to be released from the production:
“Soprano Amina Edris will create the role of Cleopatra, replacing Julia Bullock, who has withdrawn from the production. Bullock and her husband, conductor Christian Reif, are expecting the birth of their first child this fall.”
SF Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock said: “Julia has been such an inspiration in the creation of John Adams’s Antony and Cleopatra, and we will miss her dearly from the premiere, but it is for the happiest of reasons imaginable!
“We wish Julia and Christian great joy as they begin a family together. We are so grateful to Amina for joining us to create this extraordinary role and excited for the depth of character and beautiful artistry she will bring to Cleopatra. Amina is having such success around the world, and we’re thrilled to welcome her back to San Francisco Opera to help us launch our second century in such a special way.”
Born in Egypt and raised in New Zealand, soprano Amina Edris had her post-graduate studies at the SF Conservatory of Music and participated in the Merola Opera Program (2015) and Adler Fellowship Program (2016, 2017).
As an Adler Fellow, she performed roles in Carmen, Dream of the Red Chamber, Rigoletto, Elektra, and La traviata on the War Memorial Opera House stage. In 2019, she returned to the company, starring as Juliette in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, opposite the Roméo of her husband, tenor Pene Pati.
Edris made her Canadian Opera Company debut last month as Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata. She has performed Manon in Massenet’s opera of the same name at Opéra National de Bordeaux and Opéra National de Paris. Recent appearances include Alice in Robert le diable at Bordeaux, Micaëla in Carmen at Opéra du Rhin, and Violetta for Opéra de Limoges.
This summer, she returns to Europe for engagements with the Paris Opéra as La Folie in Rameau’s Platée and with the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence as Adalgisa in Norma. Next spring, she makes her house debut at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu as Manon.
Edris is a featured artist in SF Opera’s 2022 Webby People’s Voice 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 infused with Arabic music to her emergence as an operatic soprano. The free, 19-minute episode showcases Edris performing the song “Ghanili Shway Shway,” first performed by iconic Egyptian singer Oum Kalthoum, and the French art song “Adieux de l’hôtesse arabe,” by Carmen composer Georges Bizet.
Also in the Antony and Cleopatra cast:
— Bass-baritone Gerald Finley, an acclaimed Adams role creator for his performances as J. Robert Oppenheimer in Doctor Atomic, is the Roman general and triumvir Antony.
— Tenor Paul Appleby, who created the role of Joe Cannon in the company’s 2017 premiere of Adams’s Girls of the Golden West, is the young Caesar, Octavius.
— Bass-baritone Alfred Walker is Antony’s confidante Enobarbus, and mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong portrays Octavia, Caesar’s sister and the wife of Antony.
SF Opera Music Director Eun Sun Kim conducts the work, which is a co-commission and co-production with Barcelona’s Liceu Opera, Palermo’s Teatro Massimo, and the Metropolitan Opera.
With a libretto adapted from Shakespeare’s tragedy and passages drawn from Plutarch, Virgil, and other classical texts, Adams, director Elkhanah Pulitzer, and dramaturg Lucia Scheckner blend the mythic imagery of antiquity with the starry glamour of 1930s Hollywood.
Pulitzer heads a production team 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 Mark Grey. The production is made possible, in part, by Opening Weekend Grand Sponsor Diane B. Wilsey.
The seven performances of Antony and Cleopatra are scheduled for Sept. 10 (7:30 p.m.), 15 (7:30 p.m.), 18 (2 p.m.), 23 (7:30 p.m.), 27 (7:30 p.m.), Oct. 2 (2 p.m.), and 5 (7:30 p.m.). Subscription tickets are currently on sale; single tickets go on sale June 28 at sfopera.com and by phone at (415) 864-3330.