July 13, 2004
Oakland Opera Theater is delighted to reprise Akhnaten: an opera in three acts by Philip Glass! Due to sellout crowds in May, and audience members coming from as far away as Sydney, Australia; Munich, Germany; and, New York, we’ve decided that this is a work that people really want to see! Dubbed “one of the musical highlights of the year” by SF Chronicle’s Joshua Kosman, the production will feature some of the Bay Area’s most exciting performers and musicians
What: Oakland Opera Theater presents Akhnaten: an opera in three acts by Philip Glass with libretto by Philip Glass in association with Shalom Goldman, Robert Israel, Richard Riddell, and Jerome Robbins.
When: Friday, September 17 – Sunday October 3, 2004
Times: Friday, Saturday, 8pm Curtain / 7:30pm Doors
Sunday, 2pm Curtain / 1:30pm Doors
Location: Oakland Metro, 201 Broadway (@ 2nd Street) in Oakland’s Jack London Square neighborhood. 510/763-1146 http://www.oaklandmetro.org
Tickets: Friday, Saturday
Advance Online: $27.50/general & $22/students & seniors
At the Door:$32.00/general & $25/students & seniors
Advance Online: $24/general & $18/students & seniors.
At the Door: $28/general & $22/students & seniors
Media Contact & Passes: Lori Zook, 510/465-8480 email@example.com
Downloadable Photos: http://www.oaklandopera.org/akhnpress.html
What happens when you combine a small, resourceful, edgy professional opera company with a work by a brilliant living composer? The result is the fully-staged premiere by a West Coast company of Akhnaten: an opera in three acts by Philip Glass. The Oakland Opera Theater production transports the audience into the womblike atmosphere of the Egyptian ruins at Akhetaten – the ruling center of the kingdom of Akhnaten - and explores the rise and fall of the “heretic” Pharaoh. Akhnaten’s short-lived but revolutionary reign was marked by his imposition of a monotheistic religious tradition on society that sparked immediate upheaval in the realms of artistic expression, architecture and social mores; changes that altered the cultural fabric far beyond his reign.
The OOT production will be directed by Ellen Sebastian-Chang, conducted by musical director, Deirde McClure, with a set designed by scenic artisan, Garrett Lowe; video imagery by Ethan Hoerneman, and overall production design by company artistic director, Tom Dean. The sixteen-person cast and eleven-piece orchestra will feature the best and the brightest of Bay Area vocalists and musicians.
Featured performers include counter-tenor Paul Flight in the title role; Angela Dean-Baham (soprano) as Queen Tye, mother of Akhnaten; Martin Bell (baritone) as Horemhab, General and future Pharaoh; John Minagro (bass baritone) as Aye, father of Nefertiti and advisor to Akhnaten; Alan Cochran (tenor) as Amon, the High Priest; and, Michael Mohammed as the scribe/narrator.
Director Ellen Sebastian Chang has 18+ years of experience as a multi-disciplinary director. She was the cofounder and artistic director of LIFE ON THE WATER, a national and internationally known presenting and producing organization at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center from 1986 – 1995. She is a directing and producing consultant with the Zellerbach Family Fund, and has worked with a range of companies from Kitka to the Latina Theater Lab, Asian America Theater Company, Brava, Culture Clash, and others. She is currently a board member of InkBoat Productions and Opera Piccola.
Musical Director Deirdre McClure is familiar to Bay Area audiences through her work with the Clubfoot Orchestra and numerous local composers, including Erling Wold, Beth Custer, and Richard Marriott. A champion of contemporary music, McClure has premiered six new operas, five new scores for silent film, Beth Custer’s Vinculum symphony, many non-theatrical musical works, and through her work with the American Composers Forum, premiered works by young composers. She was the assistant conductor of the Women’s Community Orchestra, and was the guest conductor of the Oakland Civic Orchestra. McClure holds a doctorate in Orchestral Conducting from the Peabody Conservatory of Music, and recently taught in the California Young Musicians’ Program at the University of California. She currently resides in Portland, ME.
Akhnaten appears in the midpoint of the time span of three millenia. His dynasty was the eighteenth to rule since the time of Menes, and, when he ascended the throne in 1375 BC, he fell heir to centuries of rigid conservatism and inflexibility. Though there had been political upheaval and even foreign domination during the preceding centuries, the structure of society and its relation to the royal court remained unchanged.
The most frequent worshipped force in the natural world was the sun. Its power was represented by the falcon-headed god Horus, by the human-divine figure Atum, or by the dung beetle Kheper. The sun also had a secular designation - aten - which symbolized the sun disk itself. The stage was thus set for Akhnaten's introduction of the aten as the manifestation of the supreme power of the universe.
Akhnaten's reign, and his revolution, lasted only seventeen years. His rebellion against the massive weight of tradition encompassed religion, statecraft, art and language; and in each of these areas he attempted revolutionary innovations.
His reign ended violently. The forces of conservatism and reaction were too powerful, and the old order prevailed. The failure of his revolution strengthened the conservative trend in Egyptian life. The vehemence with which his very memory was defamed (his successors subsequently labeled him "that great criminal of Akhetaten") knows no parallel in Egyptian history.
With the demise and disappearance of Akhnaten and the end of the Amarna period, a dark curtain descended over Egypt. The Kingdom of Light was no more.
Born in Baltimore on January 31, 1937, Philip Glass discovered music in his father's radio repair shop. In addition to servicing radios, Ben Glass carried a line of records and, when certain ones sold poorly, he would take them home and play them for his three children, trying to discover why they didn't appeal to customers. These happened to be recordings of the great chamber works, and the future composer rapidly became familiar with Beethoven quartets, Schubert sonatas, Shostakovitch symphonies and other music then considered "offbeat". It was not until he was in his upper teens did Glass begin to encounter more "standard" classics.
Glass began the violin at six and became serious about music when he took up the flute at eight. But by the time he was 15, he had become frustrated with the limited flute repertoire as well as with musical life in post-war Baltimore. During his second year in high school, he applied for admission to the University of Chicago, passed and, with his parent's encouragement, moved to Chicago where he supported himself with part-time jobs waiting tables and loading airplanes at airports. During off-hours, he practiced piano and concentrated on such composers as Ives and Webern.
At 19, Glass graduated from the University of Chicago with a major in mathematics and philosophy. Determined to become a composer, he moved to New York and attended the Julliard School. By then he had abandoned the 12-tone techniques he had been using in Chicago and preferred American composers like Aaron Copland and William Schuman.
By the time he was 23, Glass had studied with Vincent Persichetti, Darius Milhaud and William Bergsma. He had rejected serialism and preferred such maverick composers as Harry Partch, Charles Ives, Moondog, Henry Cowell and Virgil Thomson, but he still had not found his own voice. Still searching, he moved to Paris and spent two years of intensive study under Nadia Boulanger.
In Paris, he was hired by a film-maker to transcribe the Indian music of Ravi Shankar into notation readable to French musicians. In the process, he discovered the techniques of Indian music. After researching music in North Africa, India and the Himalayas, he returned to New York, renouncing his previous music, and began to apply eastern techniques to his own work.
By 1974, he had composed a large collection of new music, not only for use by the theater company Mabou Mines (Glass was one of the co-founders), but mainly for his own performing group, the Philip Glass Ensemble. This period culminated in Music in Twelve Parts, a three-hour summation of Glass' new music; and reached its apogee in 1976 with the Philip Glass / Robert Wilson opera Einstein on the Beach, the 4-1⁄2 hour epic now seen as a landmark in 20th century music-theater.
In addition to Einstein, Glass has collaborated with Robert Wilson on several other projects including: the CIVIL warS - Act V (Rome Section) of the multi-composer epic was written for the 1984 Olympic Games, White Raven, an opera commissioned by Portugal to celebrate its history of discovery and premiered at EXPO '98 in Lisbon, and Monsters of Grace, a digital 3-D opera.
Glass has collaborated with a variety of artists in a range of media such as: Opera - Satyagraha, Akhnaten, The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (libretto by Doris Lessing), The Fall of the House of Usher, Hydrogen Jukebox (libretto by Allen Ginsberg), and The Voyage (libretto by David Henry Hwang); Film - Koyaanisqatsi, Mishima, Powaqqatsi, The Thin Blue Line, A Brief History of Time, Candyman, Dracula; Dance - A Descent into the Maelstrom and In the Upper Room (choreographed by Twyla Tharp); Theatre works - The Photographer, 1000 Airplanes on the Roof (libretto by David Henry Hwang), The Mysteries and What's so Funny?, and Orphée, La Belle et La Bête and Les Enfants Terribles (a trilogy of musical theater pieces based on the films of Jean Cocteau); Cooperative recording projects - Songs from Liquid Days (Lyrics by David Byrne, Paul Simon, Laurie Anderson, and Suzanne Vega), Passages (co-written with Ravi Shankar); Orchestral works - Itaipu (a large-scale work for chorus and orchestra), Symphony No. 2, Symphony No. 3, the "Low" and "Heroes" Symphonies (both based on the music of David Bowie and Brian Eno), and Symphony No. 5 - Requiem, Bardo and Nirmanakaya, (a large scale work for chorus, voice, and orchestra).
Critically acclaimed film scores include: Kundun, directed by Martin Scorsese (1998 LA Critics Award, Academy, Golden Globe, and Grammy nomination for Best Original Score), and original music for The Truman Show directed by Peter Weir (1999 Golden Globe Award for Best Score), The Hours, directed by Stephen Daldry (2003 Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score, and The Fog of War, directed by Errol Morris (currently in theaters).
Oakland Opera Theater, the company formerly known as Underworld Opera Company, was founded in 1987 by a group of former UC Berkeley students who wanted to produce their own work and the work of other living composers. Incorporated as a 501©(3) organization in 1989, early company productions include the site-specific Dick Dines Out, by Tom Dean and Kurt Schleunes with lyrical assistance by Sheldon Norberg; Mysterious Stranger, by Tom Dean and Kurt Schleunes, based on the Mark Twain story; Mask of Thorns, by Tom Dean, Kurt Schleunes and David Barrows, libretto by David Dennison, based on a true story of a homeless man in New York City suffering from schizophrenia; and, Close Your Mind and Kiss Me, by Guy Brenner, with libretto by David Dennison, set in the 1950s sci-fi genre.
More recent works include Así Que Pasen Cinco Años, scored by Tom Dean and David Barrows, based on the play by Federico García Lorca; White Darkness, scored by Tom Dean, with a libretto by Tom Dean and Lori Zook, commissioned by the Fleischhacker Foundation, and exploring life in the San Francisco Bay Area during the tumultuous year of 1978; Four Saints in Three Acts, scored by Virgil Thomson, libretto by Gertrude Stein; and Three Sisters who are not Sisters, scored by Ned Rorem, based on a play by Gertrude Stein. Their current production is Akhnaten: an opera in three acts by Philip Glass to be produced in May 2004.
The company has always maintained high artistic standards, no matter what the funding climate. One hallmark of our approach is the use of multi-media imagery, fused with traditional staging. We’re privileged to work with a number of talented, professional performers and designers who believe in the work that we do, and continue to help us realize our vision. More information on Oakland Opera Theater can be found at: http://www.oaklandopera.org
Oakland Opera Theater operates an intimate performing arts venue in Oakland’s Jack London Square, the Oakland Metro. Featuring flexible staging and seating, theatrical lighting and sound systems, the Oakland Metro has given Oakland a much-needed affordable performing arts venue serving audiences, arts organizations and performing artists. We produce 2-3 of our own productions each year and present 100+ works by visiting artists and organizations. More information on the Oakland Metro can be found at: http://www.oaklandmetro.org.