Philip Glass


This production ran: May 19 - Jun 10

This production is in the past.


Philip Glass’s mesmerizing modern masterpiece—a smash-hit in its 2019 company-premiere run—returns in Phelim McDermott’s unforgettable production, which brings ancient Egypt to vivid life with striking stage tableaux and a troupe of jugglers. Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo reprises his celebrated turn as the revolutionary pharaoh Akhnaten, with mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb as his wife and queen, Nefertiti. Once again at the helm is conductor Karen Kamensek, a noted master of Glass’s music.

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Content Advisory: Akhnaten contains momentary full-frontal nudity. 

This production was originally created by English National Opera and LA Opera.

In collaboration with Improbable

Production a gift of the Rosalie J. Coe Weir Endowment Fund and the Wyncote Foundation, as recommended by Frederick R. Haas and Rafael Gomez

Additional funding from The H.M. Agnes Hsu-Tang, PhD. and Oscar Tang Endowment Fund, Dominique Laffont, Andrew J. Martin-Weber, The Walter and Leonore Annenberg Endowment Fund, American Express, and the National Endowment for the Arts

Revival a gift of Rolex, and Barbara Augusta Teichert


Languages sung in Akhnaten

Sung In



Timeline for the show, Akhnaten

Estimated Run Time

3 hrs 30 mins

  • House Opens

  • Act I

    50 mins

  • Intermission

    30 mins

  • Act II

    55 mins

  • Intermission

    30 mins

  • Act III

    45 mins

  • Opera Ends

La Bohème

World Premiere: Staatsoper, Stuttgart, 1984

Akhnaten is one of Philip Glass’s three large-scale operas based on a “big idea,” in this case monotheism, following Einstein on the Beach, which dealt with new notions of time and space, and Satyagraha, which explored the spiritual and political revelation of non-violence. Satyagraha and Akhnaten, especially, deal largely with the unseen forces affecting the inner (psychological), interpersonal (political), and universal (mystical) aspects of existence, subjects that are uniquely portrayed by the composer’s entrancing musical lines.


Philip Glass (b. 1937) is a prolific and influential American composer whose diverse body of work has included film scores, chamber music, music for dance and other theatrical pieces, and various forms of opera. For the libretto, Glass worked with a team of collaborators to create a text that incorporates ancient inscriptions and letters, the Bible’s Psalm 104, and a Fodor guide to Egypt.


Phelim McDermott

Set and Projection Designer

Tom Pye


Kevin Pollard


Bruno Poet


Sean Gandini

Philip Glass


Philip Glass


La Bohème

Akhnaten is set during the 17-year reign of Akhnaten, around 1350 B.C.E. The location moves between the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes and Akhenaten’s new capital city at Akhetaten, as well as the ruins of the subsequently destroyed Akhetaten.


The score of this opera is lyrical, elegiac, and, while clearly a product of its famous composer (whose intricate, repetitive sonic textures unfold differently than most other classical music), is among the most easily appreciated of his creation. The vocal lines also tend toward the melodic, even if they are original and remarkable. The enigmatic title role is sung by a countertenor, and the chorus also has an important role throughout, appearing as priests in the beginning, people of Egypt throughout, and the spirits of the departed at the end.