Composer: Philip Glass
Librettist: Philip Glass
Shalom Goldman
Other Artistic Personnel: Achim Freyer (Stage Director)
Dennis Russell Davies (Conductor)
Anton Zapf (Assistant Conductor)
Ulrich Eistert (Chorus Master)
Original Cast: Paul Esswood (Akhnaten)
Milagro Vargas (Nefertiti)
Work Web Site: http://www.philipglass.com/music/compositions/akhn
Premiere Date: March 24, 1984
Producing Company: Württemberg State Opera

In ancient Egypt, Akhnaten ascends to the throne along with his bride Nefertiti. He has a vision for his people, a vision that abandons the worship of many gods for just one: the Sun God who reigns supreme. Akhnaten's bold attempt to alter the course of history with a single revolutionary idea ultimately leads to his violent overthrow.

The powerful, mesmerizing score by Philip Glass is filled with driving rhythms and exquisite choral harmonies. Akhnaten comes to Los Angeles in an all-new production by renowned director Phelim McDermott, led by the brilliant young conductor Matthew Aucoin, LA Opera's new Artist in Residence.

Click here for more detailed information on this North American work.

Character List (Major): Akhnaten(countt)
Nefertiti(a or mz)
Queen Tye(high s)
High Priest of Amon(t)
Character List (Minor): Six Daughters of Akhnaten(3 s, 3 mz)
Reviews: The New York Times, John Rockwell, 3-26-84; The New York Times, Donal Henahan, 11-5-84; The New York Times, John Rockwell, 11-4-84; The New Yorker, Andrew Porter, 11-19-84; Time, 6-3-85; The New York Times, Bernard Holland, 11-9-85; The New York Times, John Rockwell, 9-18-86; The New York Times, John Rockwell, 6-25-90; Time, 7-2-90; The Wall Street Journal, Mark Swed, 7-10-90; International Herald Tribune, David Stevens, 6-22-90; Opernwelt, 5-84, p. 27; Opera News, 6-84, p. 36; Opera, 9-84; p. 785; Opera News, 1-5-85, p. 39; Opera, 5-85, p. 480; Opera, 8-85, p. 955; Opera News, 2-16-85, p. 46; Musical America, 2-85, p. 20; Opera, 6-85, p. 615 & 693; Opera, 4-87, p. 460.
Comments: Libretto written in association with Shalom Goldman, Robert Israel, Richard Riddell, and Jerome Robbins. Libretto incorporates Egyptian, Arcadian, Hebrew, and language of the audience.

Detailed Scene Breakdown

Act One (Thebes, 1370 BC)
The High Priest of Amon prepares for the funeral of Amenhotep III. He is followed by the dead Pharaoh’s son, who will be Amenhotep IV, and other members of the royal family: the Pharaoh’s widow, Tye (serving as regent until her son comes of age); Aye, her brother, who was Amenhotep III’s chief advisor; Horemhab, leader of the army; and Nefertiti, Aye’s daughter and the young bride of the new Pharaoh. 

The Funeral of Amenhotep III
Eight Amon priests enter with the dead Amenhotep III. They celebrate the rites of Isis, Osiris and Horus. Amenhotep III begins a rite of passage through the temple of Amon. He is met by eight of the gods, who accompany him on his journey to the horizon. 

The Coronation
Amenhotep IV is prepared for his coronation in a purification ceremony. He is crowned with the double crown of Egypt and greeted as the incarnation of Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris. 

The Window of Appearances
The new Pharaoh draws the symbol of the Aten, the sun with its rays, on each of which is an ankh, the symbol of life. He will soon change his name from Amenhotep (“Amon is pleased”) to Akhnaten (“spirit of Aten”). The Amon High Priest cannot accept the affront to the old god Amon and leaves, while Akhnaten, Nefertiti and Tye, with whom perhaps the real power now lies, dance blasphemously through the Amon temple. 

Act II
The Temple
The Amon priests, surrounded by totems representing the many gods of whom Amon was the most important, are overthrown by Akhnaten, Queen Tye and their followers; their gods and temple are destroyed. 

Akhnaten and Nefertiti
Queen Tye teaches Akhnaten a poem to the Aten which he then teaches to Nefertiti. Tye gives over to Akhnaten the charge of Bekhetaten, believed by some commentators to have been their daughter. Aye and Horemhab announce that plans are ready for the building of Akhnaten's new capital, Akhetaten, the “city of the Horizons of Aten.” This is a further step to break the power of the old religion. 

The city is built. Akhnaten sings a hymn to the Aten and the chorus sings Psalm 104, the equivalent in the Hebrew religion. Aye is rewarded for his role in the building. Akhnaten tries to touch the sun. 

Act III (Akhetaten, 1358 BC)
The Family
Akhnaten, Nefertiti and the six princesses live within the city walls. Aye and Horemhab read letters to him from princes in outlying provinces of the empire calling for help against hostile powers which are threatening their existence. Akhnaten refuses to listen and eventually even Aye turns against him, rejecting the many marks of favor with which he has been rewarded over the years. Aye takes Nefertiti and her eldest daughter away. Akhnaten is left with only two of his daughters. The High Priest of Amon returns to form a triumvirate with Aye and Horemhab to overthrow the Pharoah. 

Attack and Fall
The High Priest, Aye, Horemhab and some of the Amon priests destroy the city. Akhnaten disappears—perhaps he blinds himself. 

The Ruins
In the present time, a group of tourists and their guide visit the ruins of Akhnaten's city. 

The spirits of Akhnaten, Nefertiti and Tye still haunt the ruins of the city. The fighting continues, wheat is threshed, bricks are made.

495.jpg is a photo of Akhnaten
Length: 03:00
Total Acts: 3
Chorus: SATB Chorus, minimum 24
Orchestration: 2 fl(picc), 2 ob(2obda), 2 cl(bcl), 2 bsn - 4 hrn, 3 tpt, 3 tbn, 1 tba - 3 perc - syn(cel) - str(no vln) Alt Red Ver: 3 perc - 4 kbd
Musical Style: Minimalism, triadic, harmonious, static harmonic movement, spoken text, rhythmically driving. Sung in Hebrew, Egyptian, the ancient Semitic language Akkadian, and the audience's language.
Contact: Dunvagen Music Publishers, Inc.(pub) or G. Schirmer, Inc.(agent)
Phone: 212-979-2080
Composer Web Site: http://www.philipglass.com/
Publisher Web Site: http://www.dunvagen.com
Schedule of Performances Listings
Akhnaten (Glass)
Saturday, March 19, 2011 - Long Beach Opera
Akhnaten (Glass)
Friday, January 23, 2009 - Atlanta Opera
Akhnaten (Glass)
Thursday, May 16, 2002 - State Opera of South Australia
Akhnaten (Glass)
Wednesday, July 19, 2000 - Chicago Opera Theater
Akhnaten (Glass)
Wednesday, January 26, 2000 - Boston Lyric Opera
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