Director, Phelim McDermott and Improbable Theatre Company have produced something special at English National Opera at a time when the opera house really needs it. From stage designs by Tom Pye and Kevin Pollard, lavish costumes, mesmerising music and unbelievable voices – by soloists and the beleaguered ENO chorus -, this has prompted positive reviews from critics and sell out performances. (I almost missed out on seeing this production if it wasn’t for standing day tickets, which I bought on the day for £10 each.)
Composed by Philip Glass, Akhnaten is mesmerising, enthralling, and enchanting. I simply had no idea what to expect, yet I left feeling excited about the production and mentally calmer than I had been before the opera begun. It’s fair to say that there’s certainly something stunning and enchanting about Glass’s music here.
Not many know of Akhnaten but he’s very different from other pharaohs. The life of Akhnaten, who was pharaoh of Egypt around 1350BC and married to Nefertiti, is known in ancient history for converting his people to believe a new religion, following a monotheistic sun god. The storyline, itself, is rather basic but the staging is finely executed by its remarkable music score and vocals, which is the key focus, I thought.