Akhnaten (opera)

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Akhnaten is an opera in three acts based on the life and religious convictions of the pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV),[1] written by the American classical composer Philip Glass in 1983. Akhnaten had its world premiere on March 24, 1984 at the Stuttgart State Opera, under the German title Echnaton. Paul Esswood sang the title role, German director Achim Freyer staged the opera in an abstract style with highly ritualistic movements. The American premiere was held on October 12, 1984 at the Houston Grand Opera, where Glass's opera The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 also premiered.

According to the composer, this work is the culmination of his two other biographical operas, Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha (about Mohandas Gandhi). These three people — Akhenaten, Einstein and Gandhi — were all driven by an inner vision which altered the age in which they lived, in particular Akhenaten in religion, Einstein in science, and Gandhi in politics.

The text, taken from original sources, is sung in the original languages, linked together with the commentary of a narrator in a modern language, such as English or German. Egyptian texts of the period are taken from a poem of Akhenaten himself, from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and from extracts of decrees and letters from the Amarna period, the seventeen-year period of Akhenaten's rule. Other portions are in Akkadian and Biblical Hebrew. Akhnaten's Hymn to the Sun is sung in the language of the audience.


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