If There Is Much In The Window There Should Be More In The Room

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Akhnaten - Prelude:Refrain,Verse 1,Verse 2

Akhenaten known before the fifth year of his reign as Amenhotep IV, was a Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt who ruled for 17 years and died perhaps in 1336 BC or 1334 BC. 

He is especially noted for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing worship centered on the Aten, which is sometimes described as monotheistic or henotheistic. An early inscription likens the Aten to the sun as compared to stars, and later official language avoids calling the Aten a god, giving the solar deity a status above mere gods.

Akhenaten tried to bring about a departure from traditional religion, yet in the end it would not be accepted. After his death, traditional religious practice was gradually restored, and when some dozen years later rulers without clear rights of succession from the Eighteenth Dynasty founded a new dynasty, they discredited Akhenaten and his immediate successors, referring to Akhenaten himself as "the enemy" in archival records.

An opera in three acts. Possessing a theatrical almost romantic quality,
Philip Glass takes the ancient myth setting it into the contemporary music
landscape with consummate ease while retaining the
primordial substance of the original story. 

Akhnaten, the third of Philip Glass's "portrait" operas (composed in 1983), is based on the life of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhnaten, who ruled Egypt from 1375 BC to 1358 BC. Like Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha, it is not a "story" opera but an episodic-symbolic portrait of a historical personality whose visionary ideas dramatically changed the perceptions of the world around him. Here, Glass, in his own libretto, tells the story of the man who supposedly introduced monotheism into classic Egyptian culture (and thereby the Western world), thus complimenting the realms of science and politics as portrayed in his previous two operas. 

After Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi, now an exponent of religion is the protagonist of the opera, the Egyptian pharaoh Akhnaten. Akhnaten revolutionized the leading religion in ancient Egypt by introducing the monotheism, that means, for him "Aton" was the only god. But after all he failed because of the striving for power and force of the traditional priests, and he was overthrown.

The score of the opera is a bit strange, because it is a mostly classical orchestra but without the violins. One reason for this kind of orchestration was the fact that the premiere took place in the state-theatre Stuttgart (Germany), where the main house (the "Großes Haus") was closed this year because of some renovation, and in the little house there was not enough place for a full orchestra.

But the lack of the violins fits very good to Glass' intention with this work: the music has a warmer, deeper and darker sound, and the contrast to the winds is more intensively. Also the percussion-instruments get more place, especially in scene 2 of the first act, the funeral of Akhnaten's father. There is a kind of music, which never appears in "Einstein on the Beach" nor in "Satyagraha". In fact, this "Funeral" was the first piece of "Akhnaten" that was played in public, because there is a special version for the Philip Glass Ensemble. This piece was recorded for the CD "Dancepieces", which might be one of the best Ensemble-CDs.

In most parts of the opera there dominates a restful and nearly calm sound; most of it stands in a-minor. The strength and power of Akhnaten himself is represented with the trumpet, which is used as "his" instrument. But there is another really emotional scene with the full orchestra: Akhnaten's fall.


Stuttgart State Opera Ochestra & Chorus
Dennis Russel Davis:conductor
No copyright infringement intended, just want to share it with the rest of the world.

Open are the double doors of the horizon
Unlocked are its bolts

Verse 1:
Clouds darken the sky
The stars rain down
The constellations stagger
The bones of the hell hounds tremble
The porters are silent
when they see this king
Dawning as a soul

Refrain: repeat above

Verse 2:
Men fall
Their name is not
Seize thou this king by his arm
Take this king to the sky
That he not die on earth
Among men

Refrain repeat

Verse 3:
He flies who flies
This king flies away from you
Ye mortals
He is not of the earth
He is of the sky

He flaps his wings like a zeret bird
He goes to the sky
He goes to the sky
On the wind

Go to:  https://youtu.be/EAiv-LU82t4

*original post Aug.25, 2008 


  1. if is not Philippe Glass is very close to his best period: The photographer and so on. Thanks a lot

  2. Is Philippe Glass, of course. Now I know. But in some recordings Michael Nyman is very alike. Thanks a lot

  3. Yes, they are both into minimalism musical genre
    wherein they utilize emotionally
    descriptive, modular and repetitive styles
    designed to produce distinctive instrumental colors
    as experienced in their respective operas, film scores, etc.

  4. At first listen, I thought, this is sort of repetitive; but the more I listened, the better I liked it. I'm on my fifth or sixth pass right now and I really like this piece. It could even be Goth. Thanks, Better!


    1. Needless to say, I am more than happy to know you like this, M. It is like being taken on a unique trip and then discovering the richness as the drama enhances later on. It may sound weird at first - but I love the weird, the dark, the struggle and as the tale progresses, its true beauty dawns on you. :)