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Thread: Live from the Met: Akhnaten by Philip Glass

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    Senior Member Barelytenor's Avatar
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    Default Live from the Met: Akhnaten by Philip Glass

    So, I generally can't stand countertenors. And my favorite opera composers are all Romantic/verismo, e.g. Puccini, Verdi, Wagner. And Anthony Roth Costanzo sings the (surely) incredibly difficult part while jugglers are throwing bowling pins past his head. What could go wrong?

    OTOH, there are small bits of Glass' music that I have come to like. I have an old CD of "The Civil Wars: A Tree is Best Measured When It Is Down" Act V: The Rome Version with Sondra Radvanovsky, Denyce Graves, and Giuseppe Sabbatini et al. and I found it a compelling (if mystifying) listen.

    I think I am going to attend this opera with zero expectations other than hopefully to be entertained. Perhaps I am getting more open-minded in my dotage (not a bad thing). I am beginning to study Swedish, and right now it is as mystifying as Glass's music. So I am trying to suspend understanding and want to merely absorb.

    And thus endeth my tale. I'm sure I'll have more to say after next Saturday's performance in the local movie theater (sorry, no cinemas in SW Virginia).

    Kind regards,

    George

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    Hope you'll let us know what you think! I'm attending this opera December 4, and have been listening steadily to a recording of the work. I have enjoyed Philip Glass's work (like "Wichita Vortex Sutra") before, but am having trouble finding an entry point into this music. So many arpeggios. Such a dominating, relentless sonic texture. I have a feeling the staging and story and visual effects will win me over and I'll love "Akhnaten", but at this moment I am not feeling any love at all for the Dennis Russell Davies recording I am listening to. Is it this recording's fault?

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    I saw the trailer and decided no way am I going to sit through this.

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    I went to last night's performance and I thoroughly enjoyed the opera. Anthony Roth Costanzo was outstanding, as were the other singers. Zachary James as Amenhotep III (the Narrator) was also exceptional.

    The juggling was well integrated with the opera and not just a side show.

    But a few things:

    1. Be rested and caffeinated before attending. The opera requires your committed attention.
    2. The movement and action on the stage is half-paced with slow movements from the singers. Which works with the meditative pacing of the music. The stage direction reminds me of the film "The Color of the Pomegranates": https://www.criterion.com/films/2921...f-pomegranates
    3. Make sure to read up on the synopsis or the background of the opera. The narration is in English, but the vocal text is in various ancient languages. I don't think subtitles were provided (since no one seemed to have them turned on).

    The Met did provide us with a seven page handout which includes the above and some program notes.

    Highly recommended.

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    Senior Member Granate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    I saw the trailer and decided no way am I going to sit through this.
    I imagine we all had to put up with a long interview and rehearsal of singers and jugglers during the Turandot screening

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    I'd love to see this opera some day (I imagine it will come round to ENO again). I've only seen two Glass operas The Trial and Satyagraha. Whilst I understand what he is doing with the music, it has limited appeal for me. I feel the same way about Adams, so perhaps minimalism isn't my thing. I much prefer Ades, Nono, Berio and Birtwistle.

    N.

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    I decided to bite the bullet and give it a try. At the very least I'll be entertained by the circus-like atmosphere.
    I hope that Glass is half-full this time instead of half-empty.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nina foresti View Post
    I decided to bite the bullet and give it a try. At the very least I'll be entertained by the circus-like atmosphere.
    I hope that Glass is half-full this time instead of half-empty.
    Hope you enjoy it!

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    Senior Member Barelytenor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    I saw the trailer and decided no way am I going to sit through this.
    May I ask why? It looks fascinating ... utterly unlike anything I have seen in the opera house. And definitely more appealing than some of those horrible Regietheater productions of Wagner and the like.

    Have said that (and asked that), it's á chacun son goût.

    Edit: I should have read through the remainder of the thread.

    Howling? That is awfully unkind.

    Kind regards,

    George
    Last edited by Barelytenor; Nov-17-2019 at 20:35.

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    Member sharkeysnight's Avatar
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    "Open are the double doors of the horizon!"

    Sad I'll miss this, hoping to catch an encore performance as it's the last of his portrait trilogy I haven't seen. The sonic textures are so beautiful and unique (no violins!) and Akhenaten is a great vehicle for the alien contemplation of Glass's music. Theoretically I understand why people are put off by his music, but I find it so moving and intriguing. It's like the teasing, relentless logic of Bach (the musical conclusion promised and outlined, but withheld for as long as possible) married to the endless vistas of Indian ragas, and the actual musical tones defy a concrete suggestion of meaning, making it mystical and evocative, like perfume.

    The structure of the portrait opera goes well with the music, and it's good to think of it as being like "slow looking" at museums. There's lots to absorb!

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    Quote Originally Posted by sharkeysnight View Post
    " it's the last of his portrait trilogy

    Please explain. Are there two earlier, related operas?

    Kind regards,

    George

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barelytenor View Post
    Please explain. Are there two earlier, related operas?

    Kind regards,

    George
    Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha. Whilst they aren't different installments of the same story like The Ring, they are all biographies of historical figures and I believe were written as a trilogy (although I haven't heard of them being performed as a series).

    N.

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    Senior Member amfortas's Avatar
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    Fervently hoping for a DVD.
    Alan

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha. Whilst they aren't different installments of the same story like The Ring, they are all biographies of historical figures and I believe were written as a trilogy (although I haven't heard of them being performed as a series).

    N.
    Thank you for that Conte and I agree with you amfortas!

    Kind regards,

    George

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    Member sharkeysnight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha. Whilst they aren't different installments of the same story like The Ring, they are all biographies of historical figures and I believe were written as a trilogy (although I haven't heard of them being performed as a series).

    N.
    If I remember correctly, I believe the very end of Akhnaten also quotes the opening tones of Einstein on the Beach, suggesting a cycle. I don't think they've ever been performed as such, but they do make a neat package - Satyagraha about hope and progress, Akhnaten about hope and loss, and Einstein about hope and eternity. It'd be interesting to see a company actually put on all three one after the other.

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