Akhnaten, the third creation of Philip Glass’s “portrait” trilogy of those who changed the world (joining Einstein and Gandhi) is a narrative traditionally structured yet powerfully meditative, concerning the impact of the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep IV, later known as Akhnaten.
Over the course of his 17-year reign, Akhnaten abolished the already ancient polytheistic order of Egyptian society in order to institute a state religion of monotheistic Sun worship. However, his successors deliberately destroyed most of the records of his life, so any discussion about him must be reconstructed from a blend of history, archaeology, and a degree of speculation.
The opera is lyrical, elegant, and while clearly a product of its famous composer (whose intricate, repetitive sonic textures unfold differently than most other operas), is among the most easily appreciated of his creations. The orchestra is standard except for an absence of violins, creating a somber eeriness in much of the music, and the vocal lines tend toward the melodic, even if they are original and remarkable.
One of the staging’s distinctive visual features is provided by the Gandini Juggling Company, whose movements are perfectly choreographed with the orchestral score. Their staging is a brilliantly inventive counterpoint, visually and symbolically, to the general stateliness.
The title role is scored for countertenor, adding a further layer of mysticism to the proceedings. Anthony Roth Costanzo sings the title role of the Egyptian pharaoh. In her Met debut, J’Nai Bridges sings the role of Nefertiti, Akhnaten’s bride, and Dísella Lárusdóttir is Queen Tye, the pharaoh’s mother. The orchestra and chorus are conducted by American Karen Kamensek in her Met debut. (Source: Metropolitan Opera.)
WANT TO GO?
What: Met Opera’s Live HD broadcast of Akhnaten
When: 12:55 p.m., Sat., Nov. 23
Where: USC Beaufort Center for the Performing Arts, 801 Carteret St, Beaufort
Tickets: All seats are general admission. Adults $20, OLLI members $18, Students free. Tickets are available at the box office, order on-line at www.centerforthearts.com, or call 843-521-4145.