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Class, Ritual, Time

Class, Ritual, Time Sean F. Edgecomb Akhnaten, an opera by Philip Glass, directed by Phelim McDermott, The Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center, New York, NY, November 8–December 7, 2019. he gala opening for Philip Glass’s 1983 opera, Akhnaten, at the Metro- politan Opera, was as glittering and upwardly mobile as the auditorium’s T iconic sputnik chandeliers. Conceptually imagined by director Phelim McDermott, this production originated with the English National Opera at the London Coliseum in 2016, but its transatlantic arrival seemed almost prophetic, blurring the temporal boundaries between the esoteric rites of ancient Egyptian religion and the arcane social rituals of contemporary New York ’s privileged elite. This Akhnaten was about the human cost of class systems that have supported economic disparity across millennia. Glass was inspired by the story of Amenhotep IV, the Pharaoh and iconoclast who attempted to streamline ancient Egypt’s religion from polytheism to henotheism. He elevated the sun disk Aten (and simultaneously himself as its embodiment to Akhnaten, meaning “effective for Aten”), to the apex of the Egyptian pantheon. Glass wrote the opera as the final in his “portrait” trilogy, following Einstein on the Beach (1975) and the Mahatma Ghandi–inspired Satyagraha (1979), dedicated to individuals whose transformative ideas changed http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art MIT Press

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Publisher
MIT Press
Copyright
Copyright © MIT Press
ISSN
1520-281X
eISSN
1537-9477
DOI
10.1162/pajj_a_00541
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Sean F. Edgecomb Akhnaten, an opera by Philip Glass, directed by Phelim McDermott, The Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center, New York, NY, November 8–December 7, 2019. he gala opening for Philip Glass’s 1983 opera, Akhnaten, at the Metro- politan Opera, was as glittering and upwardly mobile as the auditorium’s T iconic sputnik chandeliers. Conceptually imagined by director Phelim McDermott, this production originated with the English National Opera at the London Coliseum in 2016, but its transatlantic arrival seemed almost prophetic, blurring the temporal boundaries between the esoteric rites of ancient Egyptian religion and the arcane social rituals of contemporary New York ’s privileged elite. This Akhnaten was about the human cost of class systems that have supported economic disparity across millennia. Glass was inspired by the story of Amenhotep IV, the Pharaoh and iconoclast who attempted to streamline ancient Egypt’s religion from polytheism to henotheism. He elevated the sun disk Aten (and simultaneously himself as its embodiment to Akhnaten, meaning “effective for Aten”), to the apex of the Egyptian pantheon. Glass wrote the opera as the final in his “portrait” trilogy, following Einstein on the Beach (1975) and the Mahatma Ghandi–inspired Satyagraha (1979), dedicated to individuals whose transformative ideas changed

Journal

PAJ: A Journal of Performance and ArtMIT Press

Published: Sep 1, 2020

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