The Met’s Akhnaten: One of its finest nights

First review in New York Classical Review:

 

Costanzo’ s gorgeous voice could not have been more perfect. What sets him apart from other countertenors is the uncanny feminine timbre in his sound, a quality that combines the human and the otherworldly. His stage presence was tremendous. He is first seen, unwrapped from a giant cocoon, naked and hairless, but what commanded the attention was his posture, his deliberate gait, the way he held himself as he was clothed in the spectacular raiments of the god-king of Egypt….

Akhnaten is easily one of the finest things to ever appear at the Met. The intense beauty of the production was its own thrill. The magnificent costumes by Kevin Pollard have a few touches of ancient Egyptian iconography, but mainly mix Victorian era steampunk and touches of Edwardian fashions. In the second act, Akhenaten and Nefertiti affirm their love while wearing matching red gowns with trains dozens of feet long. As they sang, they entangled each with the other…

Read on here.

photo: Karen Almond/The Met

The production originated in the John Berry era at English National Opera.

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  • mary says:

    “naked and hairless, but what commanded the attention was his posture”

    Oh dear. I guess it WAS cold on stage.

  • Tom Rakewell says:

    Bravo to the creative team and cast )

  • Caranome says:

    Just like a review of hip restaurant: the service is attentive but not intrusive, the decor romantic, the ambiance intimate and open, the location is central and convenient, and the price is quite reasonable. How’s the food? Inedible.

  • NotevenWagner says:

    Hyperbole anyone? Not even Wagner!

    “No one in the history of opera has thought with the scope Glass has with his trilogy, not even Wagner. The duration of the Ring cycle is enormous, but what’s inside it is an extended family drama. Glass, on the other hand, is exploring the workings of the universe itself, and inside that, of human societies.”

    • John Borstlap says:

      I don’t believe a single word of it.

      I’ve heard that Glass was really good at taxi driving.

      • Jamie says:

        That’s about it. People ask” Did you see Einstein on the Beach”? And the usual reply was “ Well if you could call it that( while taking a giant snooze)”! The worst.

  • fflambeau says:

    A great review. Thanks for posting it. Philip Glass is underappreciated.

  • Myrtar says:

    Sounds like someone slept with the critics before the opening night…

  • Happy to see Karen Kamensek conducting at the Met. She seemed to be bounced around a bit in Germany.

  • Leporello says:

    ‘The duration of the Ring cycle is enormous, but what’s inside it is an extended family drama. Glass, on the other hand, is exploring the workings of the universe itself, and inside that, of human societies.’ Really? George Grella seems to be describing the Ring, so where does that leave this particular Glass? Half empty, I think.

  • JPAULO says:

    I will still pass. Lol. I sat through one Glass concert, that was enough. I can put a scratch in an old record if I want to hear the same 4 notes for 45 minutes. I will get flack, but I find Glass HUGELY over appreciated !!!

  • Anthony M says:

    Well, his voice is certainly unique among countertenors in that someone with such poor technique and questionable intonation has not appeared on the Met stage.

  • MacroV says:

    Ding Gelb all you want, but this the kind of thing the MET consistently does great.

  • Music Lover says:

    Definitely not a Glass fan but saw this production in Los Angeles. Intriguing stage action and movement. Great night at the theater. But I still won’t be going to a Glass instrumental concert.

  • Z says:

    I loved it! It is an absolutely beautiful opera.

  • Jack says:

    So many here pronouncing judgement on a work they’ve never heard. Rich.

  • Sharon says:

    I have no formal music training but I have seen a lot of opera in HD over the last several years and I believe that I agree with Caranome.

    More and more at the Met, the stage bling, including the holograms, drones, and incredibly elaborate very high tech sets, overwhelms the music and the singing.

    Now we have an Opera which is not an opera, which does not even make a pretense to being a play that is sung, where there is very little real singing and from what I see in the synopsis very little real plot. Even the costumes are not trying to set a historical tone but are just there for the color and the ambiance.

    It’s may be a great “sight and sound” show and even by an awe inspiring quasi religious experience, but is this Opera?

    • fflambeau says:

      Here’s a lengthy, positive review that completely differs with you on the costumes:

      “Akhnaten’s religion is marked by a uniformity of dress with the characters often sporting the same outfits; this contrasted with how the priests of the old religion were dressed in differing attire. This was most prominent in “The Temple” where Akhnaten and his followers enter in turquoise and white suits, while the High priest of Amon and his acolytes are all dressed in different attires that range from Gold, Black, and a darker green. This seemed aimed at exploring the concept of monotheistic for polytheistic religion where the former unifies (visually) while the other divides.

      This is an opera that merits repeat viewings simply because of the intricate detail (especially on the glorious costumes) that has been placed throughout; nothing seems wasted and there are undoubtedly several instances where one feels that the music and production were meant for one another.”

      In short, this review by David Salazar says: “Anthony Roth Costanzo, Zachary James Lead The Best Met Production of the Year.” See: https://operawire.com/metropolitan-opera-2019-20-review-akhnaten/

      • John Borstlap says:

        This reads like a Grand Opera review of 19C Meyerbeer: spectacle on the stage and mere illustrative music underneath.

        Big mistake:

        “This seemed aimed at exploring the concept of monotheistic for polytheistic religion where the former unifies (visually) while the other divides.”

        Polytheistic religions, because they are pluralistic, mostly don’t divide. For instance, religion in European antiquity welcomed ‘foreign’ gods in Rome. Religious wars mostly began with monotheism: since we have the Truth, you must be wrong and therefore in the name of the Only Merciful God, we’re sorry to have to kill you.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          Bore-slap writes: “For instance, religion in European antiquity welcomed ‘foreign’ gods in Rome”

          Er…this is just wrong. The Roman republic was actually mostly hostile to the worship of foreign gods. What they did was identify some foreign gods with domestic gods (claiming these gods were the same) in a process of syncretism. This enabled them to absorb the whole Mediterranean world into the Roman state (ultimately resulting in the appointment of Emperors).

          In the period between 0AD and 300AD the Roman elite were mostly atheistic, but many eastern Romans became interested in Eastern religions. One of these, Christianity, became the religion of the Roman empire and largely suppressed the other religions.

  • Squagmogleur says:

    This review is another example of someone wallowing in Glass’s inestimably vast shallows.

  • fflambeau says:

    Here’s another great (and long) review from OperaWire: https://operawire.com/metropolitan-opera-2019-20-review-akhnaten/

    It says that “Anthony Roth Costanzo, Zachary James Lead The Best Met Production of the Year.” It is praiseworthy of the opera in almost all respects.

  • Brian says:

    Reviews have been glowing from all quarters I’ve read, yet no one dares ask, “why has it taken 35 yrs. for this masterpiece to reach the Met’s stage?” because that would be biting the hand that feeds you. It would also lead to another question: “what else of value from this composer might we have missed because of institutional neglect?”

    I suppose what matters is that Akhnaten is heard in its composer’s home city. But why can’t music criticism have at least a hint of journalism?

  • Ivy Lin says:

    I was there last night. I really cannot be as ecstatic as the first night reviewers were:

    https://humbledandoverwhelmed.blogspot.com/2019/11/akhaten-sing-like-egyptian.html

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