Following on from their work with the ENO in ‘Millions of Years’ at the British Museum, Raw Material and Brixton Youth Theatre were at the Coliseum on Friday night for the performance of Akhnaten – a thought-provoking, absorbing experience. Beautifully produced, with amazing sets, lighting and music, it got a definite thumbs up from all the young people.
The opera tells the story of the divine ruler of Egypt, husband to Nefertiti, father of a new religion. Akhnaten decrees that the sun god rules supreme, and the old gods must be banished from their temples. But instead, his people turn upon their Pharaoh as a traitor. Akhnaten must die. At the end will his new faith live on?
This extraordinary work has not been seen in London for 30 years and forms the last of Philip Glass’s trilogy of ‘portrait’ operas in which he looks at figures from the fields of science (Einstein), politics (Gandhi) and religion (Akhnaten).The mesmerising opera uses texts drawn from ancient hymns, prayers, letters and inscriptions sung in their original Egyptian, Hebrew and Akkadian. ENO’s new production is directed by Improbable theatre company’s Phelim McDermott and follows his spectacular stagings of Glass’s Satyagraha and The Perfect American. Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo sings the title role, while conductor Karen Kamensek, a specialist in Glass’s music, makes her ENO debut.
We will be meeting soon with the ENO Baylis programme staff to feedback on the whole experience and to discuss new ideas and projects.