Philip Glass’s Akhnaten Brings Ancient Egyptian Piety to Life

From left: J’Nai Bridges as Nefertiti, Anthony Roth Costanzo as Akhnaten, and Dísella Lárusdóttir as Queen Tye in Philip Glass’s Akhnaten. (Karen Almond/Metropolitan Opera)
Glass’s otherworldly opera portrays the religious devotion of a pharoah.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE T he final opera in Philip Glass’s “portrait” trilogy, Akhnaten, which premiered in 1984, had its Metropolitan debut this season. (The first two in the trilogy, Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha, are about the lives of Albert Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi, respectively.)

The score is minimalist with maximal effect, repetitive and slowly building on themes. The libretto is primarily in English, but also makes good use of Hebrew, ancient Egyptian, and Akkadian. The performance is intrinsically ritualistic. “If Einstein epitomized the man of Science and Gandhi the man of Politics, then Akhnaten would be the man of Religion,” Glass once said


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