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Akhnaten


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Too late, of course, for anyone who hasn't seen this extraordinary production to obtain tickets since the run finished on Friday. It was, for that matter, difficult to get anything but the most expensive tickets for some time beforehand and I was cursing the fact that I hadn't bought a couple of the cheap balcony seats which I had assumed would be available at the last minute as per usual with the ENO.

 

As my children, however, are annoyingly fond of saying, everything happens for a reason and I logged on to the website just in time to grab two £20 secret seat returns with a fantastic view near the front of the stalls and thank goodness I did. It was mesmerising, compulsive, completely unforgettable and I'm still not entirely sure why since the music, as is usual with Philip Glass, was repetitive to the point of what should have been boredom but, for some unfathomable reason, was anything but.

 

The repetition did, of course, reinforce the ritualistic element which made this production so riveting, as did the stylised tableaux and other-wordly movements of almost everyone on stage. The costumes and sets, as a quick flip through any production photographs will show, were sublime and the wonderful ENO chorus was on fire! Add to that the heartbreaking vulnerability of Anthony Roth Costanzo in the title role and Zachary James' intense and committed scribe, and you will have some idea of the power of this production.

 

Rupert Christiansen described it as 'the protracted expulsion of hot air' and, in some ways, it's hard to disagree but what mesmerisingly alluring hot air!

 

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I bought this on CD after I saw a show in which Torvill and Dean skated to a piece of music from it. A friend went on Wednesday and he raved about it.

 

I do so hope it's revived before another thirty years have passed. I went expecting to be disappointed and came away completely converted.

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The ENO was really packing them in for Akhnaten, I got in by buying a standing ticket.  With the company's much publicized problems at present it did occur to me that perhaps ENO should schedule a revival ASAP.  Noting the unusually young audience I wondered if the enthusiasm for Philip Glass can be traced back to his Low Symphony, that mammoth selling CD, with its links to David Bowie and Brian Eno that most people probably have in their collections.

 

Personally I love minimalist music so this production was a real treat for me, however there isn't a DVD available of this opera at all as far as I can see.  At one time the ENO used to put out recordings and videos but seem to have stopped which is a great shame, certainly this production deserves to be recorded in some form.

 

Rupert Christiansen's reference to 'hot air' reminds me of what I think of his reviews, including the ballet ones.

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