Akhnaten................Anthony Roth Costanzo (countertenor)
Nefertiti, his wife.....J'Nai Bridges (contralto)
Queen Tye, his mother...Dísella Lárusdóttir (soprano)
Amenhotep III, ghost of his father....Zachary James (speaking)
Aye, Nefertiti's father............Richard Bernstein (bass)
High Priest of Amon............Aaron Blake (tenor)
General Horemhab........Will Liverman (baritone)
This performance of Akhnaten from the Metropolitan Opera is my seventh opera by Philip Glass, the others being Einstein on the Beach (live), Satyagraha (live), Appomattox (live), The Perfect American, Orphée (live), and Hydrogen Jukebox (live). Surely this must make me something of an expert. All around me were experiencing a Glass opera for the first time.
The story is told on three levels.
- Captions appear on the screen describing what is going on in this scene. "Coronation of Akhnaten" for example.
- There is an English speaking narrator who represents the spirit of Amenhotep III and quotes characters from the opera.
- Action by the singers and actors on the stage show the actions.
Akhnaten was an idealist, obsessed with the sun, in love with his wife and wishing to separate himself from the politics of his era. I felt that this music and theatrical presentation represented his life in a profound way that could not have been imagined, at least by me.
There was only one real aria for which text was provided: The Hymn to the Sun by Akhnaten. The singing was beautiful if completely abstract. The costumes were gorgeous and represented the exalted nature of their status in Egypt.
As a Glass expert, I declare this to be his masterpiece. Here is an excerpt from the "Hymn to the Sun."