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  • Writer's pictureladiesvoices

*Satyagraha,* 11/12/19

Barbara, Dale, and I saw *Akhnaten* at the Met on 11/12/19. It's an opera by Philip Glass about the Egyptian pharaoh, who ruled for a short 17 years, starting sometime around 1350 BCE. It's the third of Glass's "Portrait Operas:" *Einstein on the Beach* (about Einstein), *Satyagraha* (about Gandhi), and *Akhnaten.* It was premiered in Stuttgart in 1984, and this production is the Met premiere.

I'm a big fan of Glass from way back. I saw *Einstein on the Beach* at BAM and *Satyagraha* at the Met, so I was excited to close the loop on this third panel of the trilogy, it's one of the shows I was most looking forward to seeing. The music sounded like vintage Glass, but also more dissonant and more sensual than what I associate with him. The prelude was the high point of the opera - - it did that Glass thing of having a repeated sequence of harmonies, but changed slightly with each repetition. It's such a treat to listen to music that's intellectually stimulating.

The production was a huge asset to the show. The set, lighting, and especially the costume design were all extraordinary. Dale said that the three-level set design made him think of the cross-section of an archeological site. Director Phelim McDermott (who did such a brilliant job with *Satyagraha*) understands that an abstract and somewhat static opera needs not just something beautiful to look at (which this show had), but something that supports the experience and magnifies the drama. McDermott staged it as a ritual or pageant, but shot through with beauty and feeling. I can't imagine a better production of the opera. One of the best elements of the production were the jugglers - - yes, jugglers, twelve of them. Fascinating and beautiful to watch.

Of course an opera lives or dies by the music, and the performance we heard was stellar. Barbara was haunted by the music, she could stop thinking about it the next day. Karen Kamensek got the right sound from the Met Orchestra: cool yet warm, crisp yet pliant, colorful yet ambiguous. Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo played the title character, and really delivered the goods. Clearly he believes in this music, sang with a luscious sound, and held the stage 100%. Kudos also to J'Nai Bridges as his wife Nefertiti. Their duet in the second act was another highlight.

Here's a "trailer" for the Met production:

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