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  • Writer's pictureladiesvoices

*Akhnaten,* May 22, 2022

Sue, Llu, Alan, and I saw *Akhnaten* at the Met on May 22, 2022. I saw it in 2019 but was not able to stay awake. I was frustrated because I loved it but could just not stay awake. It's typical for me to nap a bit during the first act of a show but after that I'm generally OK. In this case I slept even more in the second act and decided that if I'm going to sleep, I'd rather be in my bed.

I definitely stayed awake this time! Oh my Lord, it was so amazing. I've probably seen over 50 different operas at the Met over the years and this was definitely one of the most beautiful, imaginative, and arresting things I've seen there.

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. This was a revival of the Met's 2019 production, directed by Phelim McDermott, who did such an amazing job with Glass's *Satyagraha* at the Met in 2008.

Anthony Roth Costanzo was back as the title character. I'm seeing him quite a lot lately and he's such a gifted and engaging performer. This feels like a signature role for him, something he can do better than anyone else on earth. That's a valuable commodity for a young opera singer! He sang beautifully and moved with such grace and authority. There's a lot of standing still and moving slowly in this show and he nailed it.

Rihab Chaieb played Nefertiti and was paired so beautifully with Costanzo. Their voices wove together gloriously and she matched him in the quiet, still dignity of her performance. The other most impressive performance was by Zachary James in the speaking role of Akhnaten's father. The opera is more like an oratorio or a pageant than an opera - - the drama is rather abstract and diffused. But his character is the emotional heart of the show, he more than anyone got a chance to really emote. He's a gifted performer and I want to see more from him.

I have to mention the jugglers. They're a group called the Skills Ensemble, 12 men and women, and they were the most essential element of the production. Their movement and juggling gave sparkle and meaning to an opera that could potentially be static and dull. The juggling sometimes illustrated the music in a direct way - - that can feel a little on-the-nose (or as Michael Kors would say on *Project Runway,* "Matchy-matchy") but in this case it was just plain thrilling. I definitely don't want to see juggling in more shows at the Met, but it was so perfect in this show and used so thoughtfully.

Here's a trailer from the 2019 production:

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