Philip Glass's AKHNATEN Has Its Met Premiere November 8
The Metropolitan Opera presents the company premiere of Philip Glass's modern masterpiece Akhnaten on November 8, 2019, with performances continuing through December 7. Akhnaten explores the life of the avant-garde pharaoh, who introduced the concept of monotheism to ancient Egypt, using texts drawn from ancient hymns, prayers, letters, and inscriptions-sung in their original languages set to Glass's distinctive music.
Conductor Karen Kamensek, in her Met debut, brings years of experience with Glass's work to the Met; she was also on the podium for this production's London premiere in 2016. Director Phelim McDermott, whose production of the composer's Satyagraha was a sensation at its Met premiere in 2008, creates another visionary dreamscape for Akhnaten. In his Met debut, Sean Gandini choreographs a 10-member troupe of jugglers, who fill the air above the stage with as many as 50 flying objects at a time to bring the percussive rhythms of Glass's music to vivid life.
Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo stars as the enigmatic title pharaoh who transformed Egyptian society with his revolutionary philosophy. His tour-de-force physical and dramatic performance of the role in London and Los Angeles earned him tremendous acclaim. Joining Costanzo in the cast are J'Nai Bridges in her Met debut as Nefertiti, Dísella Lárusdóttir as Queen Tye, Aaron Blake as the High Priest of Amon, Will Liverman as Horemhab, Richard Bernstein as Aye, and Zachary James in his Met debut as Amenhotep.
The production was originally created by English National Opera and LA Opera, in collaboration with Improbable. The creative team includes set and projection designer Tom Pye, costume designer Kevin Pollard, and lighting designer Bruno Poet in his Met debut.
Akhnaten is the third opera by Philip Glass to be presented by the Met, following the world premiere of The Voyage (1992) and Satyagraha (2008 and 2011).
The Met is presenting a series of talks, events, and collaborations surrounding the premiere of Akhnaten, providing historical and social context for the opera. Below is a sampling of events.
Brooklyn Museum First Saturday
Saturday, November 2 at 5 p.m.
The Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway
An ensemble of more than 100 artists-including Anthony Roth Costanzo, members of Gandini Juggling, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and the Mannes School of Music's Philip Glass Institute-will present a special performance as part of the Brooklyn Museum's free First Saturdays series.
More information is available here.
Composing for the Sun: A Conversation with Philip Glass
Wednesday, November 6 at 6:30 p.m.
Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street
Philip Glass reflects on his remarkable career, with Princeton University Chair of Comparative Literature Tom Hare. Anthony Roth Costanzo also sings a selection from the opera.
More information is available here.
NationalSawdust+ Presents "Inside Juggling"
Tuesday, December 3 at 6:30 p.m.
National Sawdust, 80 North 6th Street, Brooklyn
Brooklyn's National Sawdust showcases Akhnaten's choreographer Sean Gandini, who will join Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and singer Caroline Shaw and multi-instrumentalist Mark Stewart in a conversation moderated by NationalSawdust+ curator Elena Park. The evening will also feature performance by Akhnaten star Anthony Roth Costanzo and members of Gandini's troupe of master jugglers.
More information is available here.
The performance of Akhnaten on Saturday, November 23, will be transmitted live to more than 2,200 movie theaters in more than 70 countries as part of the Met's Live in HD series. The transmission will be hosted by mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who will star in the title role of Handel's Agrippina later this season at the Met.
The November 8 and November 19 performances of Akhnaten will be broadcast live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on Sirius XM Channel 75, the December 7 performance will be broadcast over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network, and the November 8 performance will also be streamed live on the Met's web site, metopera.org.
Icelandic soprano Dísella Lárusdóttir makes her Met role debut as Queen Tye. She was a finalist in the Met's National Council Auditions in 2007, a process that was chronicled in the award-winning documentary film The Audition. She made her Met debut in Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini in 2003, followed by performances as Woglinde in Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, Servant in Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten, First Sprite in Dvořák's Rusalka, Barena in Janáček's Jenůfa, Flower Maiden in Wagner's Parsifal, Giannetta in Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, Papagena in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, and a Shadow Marnie in Nico Muhly's Marnie. Other recent performances include the title role of Berg's Lulu at Teatro dell'Opera di Roma.
American mezzo-soprano J'Nai Bridges makes her Met debut as Nefertiti, a role she has previously sung at LA Opera. She has been seen in roles such as Kasturbai in Philip Glass's Satyagraha at LA Opera, Preziosilla in Verdi's La Forza del Destino at Opernhaus Zürich, the title role of Bizet's Carmen at San Francisco Opera, and Federica in Verdi's Luisa Miller at Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. She made her debut at Dutch National Opera last season as Josefa Segovia in John Adams' Girls of the Golden West, a role that she created at its world premiere in San Francisco Opera in 2017. This season, she sings Dalila in Saint-Saëns's Samson et Dalila at Washington National Opera and Carmen in Amsterdam.
American countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo makes his Met role debut as Akhnaten, a role he has previously sung at English National Opera and LA Opera. After winning the Met's National Council Auditions in 2009, he made his Met debut as Unulfo in Handel's Rodelinda, followed by performances as Ferdinand in the baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island and Orlofsky in the Met's new production of J. Strauss's Die Fledermaus. His debut album, entitled ARC, was nominated for a 2019 Grammy Award and features Philip Glass and Handel works. His other recent performances include Nero in Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea at Cincinnati Opera, Orfeo in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice at Florida Grand Opera, and the title role in Handel's Giulio Cesare at Houston Grand Opera. He also has created roles in world premieres, including Roane in Jake Heggie's Great Scott at the Dallas Opera and Cesar in Jimmy López and Nilo Cruz's Bel Canto at Lyric Opera of Chicago. This season, he sings Unulfo at LA Opera and Theater an der Wien.
American tenor Aaron Blake makes his Met role debut as the High Priest of Amon. He made his Met debut as Gastone in Verdi's La Traviata in 2017 and performed in the Met's Summer Recital Series this past summer. Recent performances include his creation of Timothy Laughlin in the world premiere of Gregory Spears's Fellow Travelers at Cincinnati Opera, Count Almaviva in Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Tulsa Opera, and Tamino in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte on tour in Australia, New Zealand, and New York with Komische Oper Berlin. This season, he sings Almaviva at Israeli Opera and in Cincinnati.
American baritone Will Liverman sings Horemhab. After competing in the Grand Finals concert of the Met's National Council Auditions in 2012, he made his Met debut in 2018 as Malcom Fleet in Nico Muhly's Marnie. Recent performances include Schaunard in Puccini's La Bohème at Santa Fe Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and Dallas Opera; Foreman at the Mill in Janáček's Jenůfa in Santa Fe; Tommy McIntyre in Gregory Spears's Fellow Travelers at Lyric Opera of Chicago; and Dizzy Gillespie in Daniel Schnyder's Charlie Parker's Yardbird at English National Opera. This season, he sings Silvio in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci at Opera Colorado and Portland Opera as well as Marcello in La Bohème at Seattle Opera.
American tenor Richard Bernstein adds a new role to his Met repertory as Aye. He made his Met debut as Zuniga in Bizet's Carmen in 1995, followed by more than 400 performances in roles such as Angelotti in Verdi's Tosca, Masetto in Mozart's Don Giovanni, the title role in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, Colline in Puccini's La Bohème, and Lord Krishna in Philip Glass's Satyagraha. Recent performances include Leporello in Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Chautauqua Festival and Angelotti in concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin at Bravo! Vail. This season at the Met, he also sings in Verdi's Macbeth, Mozart's The Magic Flute, Berg's Wozzeck, and Puccini's Manon Lescaut.
American bass Zachary James makes his Met debut as Amenhotep, a role he has previously sung at English National Opera and LA Opera. He created the role of Abraham Lincoln in the world premiere of Philip Glass's The Perfect American at the Teatro Real in Madrid, a role he reprised for English National Opera, Opera Queensland, and the Brisbane Festival. Other recent roles include the Four Villains in Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann at Nashville Opera, Vodnik in Dvořák's Rusalka at Des Moines Metro Opera, and Terry in the world premiere of Missy Mazzoli's Breaking the Waves at Opera Philadelphia. This season, he sings Lucius in the world premiere of Paola Prestini's Edward Tulane at Minnesota Opera and Banquo in Verdi's Macbeth at Florentine Opera. As a Broadway actor, he created the role of Lurch in the original Broadway cast of The Addams Family and performed as Thomas Hassinger in the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival cast of South Pacific at Lincoln Center Theater.
American conductor Karen Kamensek makes her Met debut leading Akhnaten, which she has previously conducted at English National Opera. She was music director of the Staatsoper Hannover from 2011 to 2016, where she led new productions including Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Puccini's Il Trittico. Recent performances include Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking at Welsh National Opera and Victoria Borisova-Ollas's Dracula at Royal Swedish Opera. Her previous engagements include appearances at Deutsche Oper Berlin, English National Opera, Frankfurt Opera, Israeli Opera, Opera Australia, San Diego Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Volksoper Wien, among others. This season, she will also lead Mozart's Don Giovanni at Minnesota Opera.
English director Phelim McDermott won the 2017 Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production for this production of Akhnaten. His Met credits include Philip Glass' Satyagraha, Mozart's Così fan tutte, the Baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island, and the 125th Anniversary Gala. He is co-founder of the theater company Improbable, with whom he has produced the Obie Award-winning 70 Hill Lane, as well as Lifegame, Animo, Coma, Spirit, Sticky, Cinderella, The Hanging Man, Theatre Of Blood (in collaboration with London's National Theatre), Panic, Beauty and the Beast, Shockheaded Peter, and Opening Skinner's Box. His opera credits include Verdi's Aida, Glass's The Perfect American, and Satyagraha at English National Opera as well as Helmut Lachenmann's Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern at the Spoleto Festival. He also directed Bambin-O, a classical opera by Liam Patterson for children between six and 18 months old, for Scottish Opera. This season, he directs a new production of Aida at Houston Grand Opera.
English set and projection designer Tom Pye has previously designed Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, John Adams's The Death of Klinghoffer, and Mozart's Così fan tutte for the Met. He has worked around the world in theater, television, film, opera, and dance, with designs on Broadway for All My Sons, The Glass Menagerie, Cyrano de Bergerac, Medea, and Long Day's Journey Into Night; for film and television in HBO's Gentleman Jack and To Walk Invisible; and for opera in Verdi's Aida, Julian Anderson's Thebans, Henze's Elegy for Young Lovers, Britten's Death in Venice, Vaughan Williams's Riders to the Sea, and Janáček's Diary of One Who Vanished at English National Opera.
English costume designer Kevin Pollard made his company debut designing costumes for Philip Glass's Satyagraha during the 2007-08 season followed by the Baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island during the 2011-12 season. His costume designs have been seen around the world for opera productions such as Mozart's The Magic Flute at Welsh National Opera; Verdi's Ernani and Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel for La Scala; and Satyagraha, Bizet's Les Pêcheurs de Perles, and Kaija Saariaho's L'Amour de Loin at English National Opera. He has also designed for musicals, including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the Royal National Theatre and Danny Champion of the World, Top of the World, and Beasts and Beauties at the Spike Theatre.
English lighting designer Bruno Poet makes his Met debut with Akhnaten. He has designed for theater, opera, and dance around the world. His most recent work for opera includes Verdi's Aida at English National Opera, Bizet's Carmen at the Bregenz Festival, Mozart's Don Giovanni at Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv, and Verdi's Otello at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Other recent credits include Tina: The Musical on the West End, designs for the world tour of Icelandic rock band Sigur Rós, Julius Caesar for Bridge Theatre, and St. George and the Dragon at the National Theatre in London.
Cuban choreographer Sean Gandini makes his Met debut with Akhnaten. In 1992, Gandini and Kati Ylä-Hokkala founded the prolific Gandini Juggling, which has performed more than 5,000 shows in 50 countries in venues such as the Royal National Theatre, English National Opera, and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden,; contemporary art museums in France; theaters in Lebanon; and tents in Argentina. He has collaborated with innovative artists including American musician Tom Johnson, English choreographer Gill Clarke, and French choreographer Ludovic Ondiviela in which they created the ground-breaking juggling ballet 4 x 4 (Ephemeral Architectures), set to original music by Nimrod Borenstein. He also teaches in many of the world's leading circus schools.
For further details on Akhnaten, please click here.
Photo: Richard Hubert Smith / English National Opera