John Adams composed Antony & Cleopatra for the centennial of the San Francisco Opera, where it received its world premiere production last year. A co-commission and co-production with Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu and New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the two-act opera features a libretto adapted from Shakespeare’s play by the composer himself. With direction by Elkhanah Pulitzer and dramaturgy by Lucia Scheckner, the production combines images of antiquity with the glamour of 1930s Hollywood.

Adams wrote Antony & Cleopatra’s female title role expressly for Bullock, but she ultimately withdrew from the San Francisco staging to accommodate her pregnancy. As a result, it is only now, when the opera receives its European premiere at the Liceu, that audiences will first see her portrayal of the Egyptian queen. Bullock makes her house and title role debuts as Cleopatra opposite the Antony of bass-baritone Gerald Finley and Caesar of tenor Paul Appleby, as in San Francisco, where the work impressed the New Yorker as “a finely wrought, fiercely expressive rendering” of Shakespeare’s tragedy. Marking the first time he has done so himself, Adams will conduct the opera (Oct 28–Nov 8).