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Philip Glass Opera Topic of Multi-media Presentation at Santa Monica Library  

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By Jorge Casuso

February 16, 2017 -- American composer Philp Glass' opera "Akhnaten," which will be the topic of discussion at the Santa Monica Library Saturday, merges the ancient and ultra-modern.

The opera -- which sets ancient texts to an often relentless minimalist style popularized four decades ago by the celebrated composer -- tells the tale of the Egyptian pharaoh and his Queen Nefertiti who abandoned polytheism for the worship of the solar deity Aten.

The multimedia talk at 3 p.m. in the Main Library’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium will discuss last year's production of "Akhnaten" by the LA Opera -- which was called "an exultant (visual) mess" by the Los Angeles Times and a triumphant "must see" by San Francisco Classical Voice.

Akhnaten LA Opera
"Akhnaten" (Images courtesy of LA Opera)

The third opus in a trilogy of "portrait operas" Glass composed between the mid- 1970s and mid-80s, "Akhnaten features a "mesmerizing score filled with driving rhythms, powerful choruses, and exquisite ensembles," according to a statement announcing last November's production.
Akhnaten LA Opera Production

The production -- which featured jugglers, period-inspired costumes, nudity and striking lighting effects -- drew a diverse crowd that, according to a review in The New Yorker, included "blue-hairs and hipsters."

“'Akhnaten' attains an austere majesty that won’t sound entirely alien to ears accustomed to 'Aida," Alex Ross wrote in his review for the magazine.

"At the same time, its static, hieratic text, derived largely from ancient Egyptian and Akkadian sources, lies far outside the operatic norm, and makes most American librettos of recent decades look bland."

“'Akhnaten' is not as adventurous as the first work in Glass' trilogy, "Einstein on the Beach," which drew widespread attention to a musical style detractors compared to a stylus stuck in a groove and admirers extolled as awe-inspiring and trance-inducing.

“Akhnaten's" musical style is more varied and accessible than its predecessor's, giving the opera a more traditional "romantic" quality.

The library program is free and all ages are welcome. Space is limited and on a first-arrival basis.

The event is presented by The Living Room . . . a place for adults program series. For more information, visit or contact the Santa Monica Public Library at (310) 458-8600.

The Main Library is served by Big Blue Bus routes 1, 7, R7, R10 and 18 and provides bicycle parking racks.

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