Who Wrote the Music for the Opera Akhanaten?

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The music for the opera Akhanaten was composed by Philip Glass. The opera is based on the life of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, who was known for his radical religious reforms.

Akhnaten – The Opera

The opera Akhnaten, with a score by Philip Glass, was premiered in 1984. It was commissioned by The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Opera, and the Opera Company of Philadelphia. The libretto was written by Glass’s long-time collaborator and director, Robert Wilson.

The Plot

The libretto, by Philip Glass andDavid Henry Hwang, is based on the life of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten, with a particular focus on the religious and political upheaval he caused by worshipping one god, Aten, to the exclusion of all others.

The opera begins with a proscription against idolatry, inscribed on a wall in the tomb of Akhenaten’s grandfather, Amenhotep III. This is followed by a scene in which Akhenaten’s father, Amenhotep IV, attempts to dissuade him from his heretical ways. When Amenhotep IV changes his name to Akhenaten and builds a new temple at Karnak to worsip Aten, the priests of Amun become alarmed and plot against him.

Queen Tye, Akhenaten’s mother arrives from Mitanni to support her son but she soon realizes that he is doomed. Nefertiti, Akhenaten’s beautiful wife tries unsuccessfully to keep him from his downward spiral. Finally, after years of religious turmoil and civil war, Akhenaten dies and his followers are persecuted. The opera ends with a temple being destroyed and its priests led away in chains.

The Music

The music of Akhnaten was composed by Philip Glass in 1983. Glass is an American composer who is considered to be one of the most influential musicians of the late 20th century. His work often explores minimalism, and he is known for his use of repetition and ostinatos. Akhnaten was his first opera, and it was inspired by his interest in ancient Egyptian culture. The opera is written in three acts, and it tells the story of the titular character, who was a Pharaoh who attempted to monotheism during his reign. The music is rooted in Glass’s minimalist style, but it also incorporates various traditional Egyptian music forms and instruments.

The Composer

Philip Glass is an American composer. He is considered to be one of the most influential music makers of the late 20th century. Glass’s work has been associated with minimalism, being built up from repetitive phrases and shifting layers.

Early Life

The Akhnaten opera was composed by Philip Glass, born in 1937. He is an American composer and is considered to be one of the most influential music makers of the late 20th century. His music is often described as minimalistic, and he has written works for orchestra, film, and theater. The Akhnaten opera was first performed in 1984.

Work on Akhnaten

Akhnaten is an opera in three acts by American composer Philip Glass, with a libretto by David Henry Hwang. The work was commissioned by the Stuttgart Opera, premiered in 1984, and later produced by the Metropolitan Opera in 1985. Akhnaten was Glass’s second opera after Einstein on the Beach (1976), and like its predecessor, it has an abstract plot related to the life of one man, here the titular Pharaoh Akhenaten.

Later Years

Akhnaten’s name was stricken from all monuments and documents, and he was written out of the ancient Egyptian history. His son, Tutankhamun, who was only a child when he came to the throne, restored the old religion and erased all traces of his father’s reign. It wasn’t until centuries later that scholars began to piece together the story of Akhnaten and his short-lived religious revolution.

The Music of Akhnaten

The music for the opera Akhnaten was written by Philip Glass. This opera is based on the life of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who was the founder of the eighteenth dynasty of Egypt. Akhnaten’s reign was short, but he was a very important figure in Egyptian history.

The Opening Scene

The opening scene of the opera Akhnaten is very unique and different from any other opera. The reason for this is because the music is very minimalistic and repetitive. This was intentional by the composer, Philip Glass, to create a feeling of being in an ancient Egyptian temple. The entire opening scene is in one continuous shot, which is also very rare for an opera.

The Hymn to the Sun

The Hymn to the Sun is one of the best known pieces from the opera Akhnaten. It is sung by the title character, Akhnaten, in praise of the sun god, Aten.

The music was composed by Philip Glass, with a libretto by Robert Wilson. The Hymn to the Sun is in alternation between solo voice and choral sections, and is in a slow and reflective mood. The lyrics are taken from an ancient Egyptian hymn, which praising the sun god Aten.

Akhnaten was written in 1983 and debuted at the Opera de Lyon in 1984.

The Funeral Scene

The funeral scene is one of the most moving and powerful scenes in the opera. It is achingly beautiful, and it perfectly captures the grief of Akhnaten and his family at the loss of their beloved wife and mother. The music is written in a very traditional style, with a simple melody that is repeated over and over again. It starts out slow and low, but gradually builds to a powerful crescendo, before finally fading away to nothing.


The music for the opera Akhanaten was written by Philip Glass.

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