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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Akhnaten at the Metropolitan Opera House

    Akhnaten, opera in three acts, sung and narrated in English, ancient Egyptian, Akkadian, and Hebrew, with English Met Titles
    Music by Phillip Glass
    Libretto by Phillip Glass, in association with Shalom Goldman, Robert Israel, Richard Riddell, and Jerome Robbins, drawn from ancient texts
    Premiered at the Stuttgart Staatsoper, 1984

    Attended in person at the Metropolitan Opera House, on Saturday 11/30/2019 (this was the Met's 6th performance of this opera)

    A new production of the English National Opera and LA Opera in cooperation with Improbable

    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, conducted by Karen Kamensek
    The Metropolitan Opera Chorus, chorus master Donald Palumbo
    Production and Stage Direction by Phelim McDermott
    Set and Projection Design by Tom Pye
    Costume Design by Kevin Pollard
    Lighting Design by Bruno Poet
    Choreography by Sean Gandini

    Cast, in order of vocal appearance

    Amenhotep III - Zachary James
    Aye, Nefertiti's father - Richard Bernstein
    High Priest of Amon - Aaron Blake
    General Horemhab - Will Liverman
    Akhnaten - Opera Lively interviewee Anthony Roth Costanzo
    Queen Tye, Akhnaten's mother - Dísella Lárusdóttir
    Nefertiti, Akhnaten's wife - J'Nai Bridges
    Akhnaten's Daughters - Lindsay Ohse, Karen Chia-Ling Ho, Chrystal E. Williams, Annie Rosen, Olivia Vote, Suzanne Hendrix
    A Professor - Zachary James
    Young Tutankhamun - Oscar Rempe-Hiam
    And a skill ensemble with 12 artists

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    Curtain Calls, with Anthony Roth Costanzo center; Opera Lively picture

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    I finally fulfilled a long-held dream of seeing Akhnaten live and in person, and the several years of expectation did not detract from the experience, which went above and beyond my wildest hopes. This was a fascinating evening of high-quality contemporary opera. You all know how much I love the genre, and it was very rewarding to see my wife feeling as enthusiastic about the piece as I am. She usually is a lot less fond of contemporary opera than I am (while recognizing the assets of some of the best ones she graciously, although somewhat reluctantly, allowed me to drag her to; she was fairly well impressed with Written on Skin and The Exterminating Angel). Well, this one, she did love! While Akhnaten is very highly placed in my esteem, it is not my favorite contemporary opera (I like even better the two above-mentioned, not to forget Phillip Glass' own Satyagraha, which I consider to be even more exquisite than Akhnaten). But clearly, it became my wife's favorite one; she couldn't stop praising it during our walk back to the hotel.

    Indeed, the music is beautiful! While unconventional for those who are more used to Baroque, Classic and Romantic pieces, with its polytonality, the absence of violins, and Glass' trademark "music with repetitive structures", there is no denying that the score is very melodious and extremely compelling. Add to this a fabulous, visually striking production, excellent singers, the Met's great orchestra and chorus, and you're close to paradise.

    Everything in this show is interesting. One of the best parts is the skills ensemble. These talented juggling performers were so precise in their movements! Not a single mistake in three and a half hours! The costumes were great, and the stage with three levels was put to excellent use. Lighting provided an eerie feel with Egyptian motives rendered by shadows.

    I was very glad to see again one of my favorite interviewees, Anthony Roth Costanzo. I remember fondly this young man's intelligent answers a few years ago when he educated us on the ins and outs of the countertenor voice [read his interview by clicking (here)]. Given that both his parents are professors in the same university where I teach, and given that Anthony was born in North Carolina 13 miles from where I lived for a decade and a half, I've followed his career with the greatest interest. He sang the title role divinely. Anthony is a countertenor who doesn't suffer from lack of volume like some of his colleagues. The Met was sold out and I only found tickets very far from the stage, but we could hear him loud and clear. All other singers did very well too. There was no weak link.

    Talking about the sell-out crowd, I was very pleasantly surprised with the average age of the audience. I've never seen so many youngsters at the Met. My seat companion to the right commented upon how different it is to see most heads in the audience adorned with black and blond hair, as opposed to gray and silver like it is usually the case. He told me that all performances of Akhnaten sold out! Long life contemporary opera! It is very satisfactory to see that the art form is alive and well in America, and that one of our most beloved contemporary composers is able to sell every seat in this huge opera house for every single performance of his spectacular opera! Well done, Phillip Glass!

    In summary, this was an A++ performance of an A++ opera. It is highly recommended. It was on Met Live in HD this season (on Nov 23), so, if you can't make it in person to the Met, don't miss the encore broadcast which is today in the United States, and in Canada on February 15, 17, 19, and 23. I know that in certain countries like New Zealand it is given later, so, be attentive; hopefully if you can't see it in movie theaters, you'll be able to catch it later on Met On Demand. It shouldn't be missed.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); December 7th, 2019 at 01:13 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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