Metropolitan Opera 2019-20 Preview: ‘Akhnaten’ To Become Third Philip Glass Opera At Met

By David Salazar
(Credit: Richard Hubert Smith / ENO)

When it opens this Friday, “Akhnaten” will be but the third Philip Glass opera to ever open at the Metropolitan Opera. In sum there will be eight performances of the opera, bringing the total of Glass opera performances at the famed house to 34.

The first opera by the Academy Award nominated composer to premiere at the Met Opera was “The Voyage.” That first performance took place on Oct. 12, 1992 and starred Timothy Noble as Columbus, Tatiana Troyanos as Isabella and a wide range of other cast members including Douglas Perry, Patricia Schumann, Kaaren Erickson, Julien Robbins, Jane Shaulis, Jan Opalach, José Bercero, Ralph Di Rienzo, and Christopher Stocker. Bruce Ferden conducted a production by David Poutney, making his Met Opera debut.

The opening performance featured a total of four vocal soloists making their debuts and four production / conducting team members making their company debuts. This work was a Met Opera commissioned to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ re-discovery at a reported fee of $325,000. The opera would get 6 performances in its initial run, the fewest of any Glass opera at the Met to date.

Four years later, the opera would return for another six performances with conductor Dennis Russell Davies debut in the podium. Among the cast members was Christine Goerke as the Doctor and Space Twin 1.

On April 11, 2008, “Satyagraha” would debut at the Met in a production by Phelim McDermott, making his Met Opera debut. His entire production team was appearing with the company for the first time, as was conductor Dante Anzolini. Among the cast members, Ellie Dehn was also making her Met debut, joined by Richard Croft, Bradley Garvin, Richard Bernstein, Rachel Durkin, Maria Zifchak, Earle Patriarco, Alfred Walker, and Mary Phillips; Dehn would be among the rare cast members from the first run not to return for the revival a few years later.

“Satyagraha” received seven performances during that initial run, but would return in 2011 to another seven shows, including a Live in HD simulcast on Nov. 19, 2011.

Coincidentally, the two operas have both gotten revivals within a three to four-year span with the second run matching up with the number of performances featuring during the initial showcase; this could hint at “Akhnaten” not only getting a revival in a few seasons, but also featuring eight performances in total.

“Akhnaten” will star Anthony Roth Costanzo with Dísella Lárusdóttir, J’Nai Bridges, Aaron Blake, Zachary James, Richard Bernstein, and Will Liverman performing under the musical direction of Karen Kamensek, the only woman who will conduct at the Met in 2019-20. McDermott directs the production.