Opens Monday 11 February at 7.30pm (7 performances)
Following its sell-out run in 2016, Phelim McDermott’s sensational production of Akhnaten returns to the London Coliseum for its first revival in February 2019. Winning the 2017 Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production and hailed as ‘unforgettable magnificence’ (The Independent), the visual spectacle provided by Improbable Theatre Company and Gandini Juggling Company will accompany the mesmeric music of Philip Glass once more. The same creative team returns with many of the original cast reprising their roles in one of opera’s most arresting achievements of recent years.
The story of the revolution of the first monotheist pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, Akhnaten uses texts drawn from drawn from ancient hymns, prayers, letters and inscriptions sung in their original Egyptian, Hebrew and Akkadian. It forms the last of Philip Glass’s trilogy of ‘portrait’ operas in which he explores the lives of great historical figures in the fields of science (Einstein), politics (Gandhi) and religion (Akhnaten).
Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, the man who ‘exists to transform opera’ (The New York Times), once again takes on the title role of the doomed pharaoh. Hailed as ‘extraordinary’ both for his singing and acting (WhatsOnStage) in the original London run, Costanzo also performed the role in Los Angeles in the production’s LA Opera run later in 2016.
Glass, a composer with whom ENO has enjoyed a special relationship since it presented the UK premieres of both this opera and The Perfect American, is a great favourite of ENO audiences. Satyagraha, from the same director and creative team, was revived to rave reviews in February 2018, also conducted by Karen Kamensek.
ENO Harewood Artist Katie Stevenson takes the role of Akhnaten’s wife Nefertiti. She made her debut at ENO in 2017 as a Shadow Marnie in Marnie, with this production marking her first lead role with the company. Akhnaten’s mother Queen Tye is sung by Rebecca Bottone, who reprises her 2016 role for which there was ‘no praise too high’ (The Independent).
Baritone James Cleverton returns to the role of Horemhab. He first performed with ENO in 2009 singing the role of Oppenheimer in Penny Woolcock’s production of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, and will return later in 2019 to sing The Photographer in the world premiere of Iain Bell’s Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel.
Bass-baritone Keel Watson takes the role of Aye, advisor to the Pharaoh, and Colin Judson reprises his role as the High Priest of Amon. They were last seen at the Coliseum singing Bartolo and Basilio respectively in Fiona Shaw’s The Marriage of Figaro in 2018 (‘magisterial’ - Bachtrack). Zachary James reprises his role as the Scribe.
The six Daughters of Akhnaten are sung by Charlotte Shaw, Hazel McBain, Rosie Lomas, Elizabeth Lynch, Martha Jones and Angharad Lyddon.
Karen Kamensek returns to conduct in her third Coliseum appearance following a ‘transcendent’ (The Stage) Satyagraha in 2018 and the original 2016 run of Akhnaten. An expert in the work of Philip Glass, she premiered his work Orphée with the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra in New York. She has also conducted the world premiere of Glass’s Les Enfants Terribles at the Spoleto Festival in the USA.
Director Phelim McDermott’s work with ENO includes Satyagraha, The Perfect American, Aida and Così fan tutte. He has won various awards, including an Olivier Award for Best Entertainment, TMA Awards for Best Touring Production and Best Director and a Critics Circle Best Designer Award. He is the founder-director of Improbable.
Joining the singers onstage are the Gandini Juggling Company, led by world renowned juggler Sean Gandini, who created so memorable an impression in the 2016 run. The creative team from Improbable is completed by Set Designer Tom Pye, Costume Designer Kevin Pollard and Lighting Designer Bruno Poet, who have worked with McDermott on ENO shows including Satyagraha, Aida and Così fan tutte.