The Metropolitan Opera HD Live (2006–…): Season 14, Episode 4 - Glass: Akhnaten - full transcript

- Hello. I'm Joyce DiDonato,
and I'm thrilled to be your host

for the Metropolitan Opera
premiere of "Akhnaten."

This opera by the great
American composer Philip Glass

has been a life-changing event
for the artists who perform it

in a visually
arresting production

the likes of which
have never been seen before

on the historic stage
of the Met.

"Akhnaten" is an opera
expressed as hypnotic ritual.

As Glass' floating arpeggios
are sumptuously played

by the Met Orchestra,
they are also visualized

through an extraordinary display
of onstage juggling.

Like all Glass operas,
the story is abstract.

Its focus is the rise and fall
of the Pharaoh Akhnaten

whose resume is shrouded
in the mysterious annals

of ancient Egyptian history.

Akhnaten was way ahead
of biblical times

when he introduced
the worship of a single god,

the God of the Sun,
to his followers.

It's no wonder that his reign
was relatively brief.

In a tour de force performance,

Anthony Roth Costanzo

plays Akhnaten,

and mezzo soprano J'Nai Bridges

makes her stunning
Metropolitan Opera debut

as his legendary queen,

Together, they inhabit
a fantastical world.

Thanks to the unfettered

of stage director
Phelim McDermott,

Glass has
found his perfect match.

As you will soon see,

this is
a mesmerizing production.

Maestro Karen Kamensek
is ready to enter the pit.

Here is "Akhnaten."

Subtitles are provided only for
scene headings and select text.

- Open are the double doors
of the horizon.

Unlocked are its bolts.

Clouds darken the sky.

The stars rain down.

The constellations stagger.

The bones of
the hell hounds tremble

The porters are silent

when they see this king
dawning as a soul.

Open are the double doors
of the horizon.

Unlocked are its bolts.

Men fall.

Their name is not.

Seize thou this king by his arm.

Take this king to the sky that
he not die on earth among men.

Open are the double doors
of the horizon.

Unlocked are its bolts.

He flies who flies.

This king flies away
from you, ye mortals.

He is not of the earth.
He is of the sky.

He flaps his wings
like a zeret bird.

He goes to the sky.

He goes to the sky on the wind,
on the wind.

-Live the Horus,


He of the Two Ladies,

Establishing Laws and causing
the Two-Lands to be Pacified;

Horus of Gold,


King of Upper and Lower Egypt,

Nefer Kheperu Ra Wa en Ra,

Son of Neb-maet-Ra,

Lord of the Truth like Ra,

Son of Ra, Amenhotep,
Amon is pleased,

Hek Wase, Ruler of Thebes,
Given Life.

Mighty Bull, Lofty of Plumes;

Favorite of the Two Goddesses,
Great in Kingship in Karnak;

Golden Hawk, wearer of Diadems
in the Southern Heliopolos;

King of Upper and Lower Egypt.

Beautiful-is-the-Being of Ra,
the Only-One-of-Ra,

Son of the Sun, Peace-of-Amon,
Divine Ruler of Thebes;

Great in Duration,

Beloved of Amon-Ra,
Lord of Heaven.

- By the end of the first act,
Akhnaten has assumed his throne

and announced his plans
for a new monotheistic religion.

Now it's time for him
to set his plans in motion.

Here is Act II of "Akhnaten."

-I breathe the sweet breath

which comes forth
from thy mouth.

I behold thy beauty every day.

It is my desire that I may be
rejuvenated with life

through love of thee.

Give me they hands,
holding thy spirit,

that I may receive it
and may live by it.

Call thou upon my name
unto eternity,

and it shall never fail.

I breathe the sweet breath

which comes forth
from thy mouth.

I behold thy beauty every day.

It is my desire
that I may be rejuvenated

with life through love of thee.

Give me they hands,
holding thy spirit,

that I may receive it
and may live by it.

Call thou upon my name
unto eternity,

and it shall never fail.

-And his majesty said unto them,

"Ye behold the City
of the Horizon of the Aten,

which the Aten has desired me
to make for him

as a monument in the great name
of my majesty forever.

For it was the Aten, my father,

that brought me
to this City of the Horizon.

There was not a noble
who directed me to it.

There was not any man
in the whole land

who led me to it, saying,

"It is fitting for his majesty
that he make a City

of the Horizon of Aten
in this place."

Nay, but it was the Aten,
my father,

that directed me
to make it for him.

Behold the Pharaoh found that
this site belonged not to a god,

nor to a goddess.

It belonged not to a prince
nor to a princess.

There was no right for any man
to act as owner of it.

I will make
the City of the Horizon

for the Aten,
my Father, in this place.

I will not make the city
south of it, north of it,

west of it, or east of it.

I will not pass beyond
the southern boundary

stone southward,
neither will I pass

beyond the northern boundary
stone northward

to make for him
a City of the Horizon there.

Neither will I make for him
a city on the western side.

Nay, but I will make the City
of the Horizon for the Aten,

my Father, upon the east side,
the place for which

he did enclose
for his own self with cliffs,

and made a plain in the midst
of it that I might sacrifice

to him thereon.

This is it.

Neither shall the Queen
say unto me,

"Behold there is a goodly place
for the City of the Horizon

in another place,"
and I harken unto her.

Neither shall any noble
nor any man

in the whole land say unto me,

"Behold there is a goodly place
for the City of the Horizon

in another place,"
and I harken unto them.

Whether it be downstream
or southward

or westwards or eastwards,
I will not say,

"I will abandon this City
of the Horizon."

Thou dost appear beautiful

on the horizon of heaven.

Oh, living Aten,
he who was the first to live.

When thou hast risen
on the Eastern Horizon,

Thou hast filled every
land with thy beauty.

Thou art fair, great,
dazzling, high above every land.

Thy rays encompass the land
to the very end of all thou hast made.

Thy rays encompass the land
to the very end of all thou hast made.

All the beasts are satisfied
with their pasture.

Trees and plants are verdant.

Birds fly from their nests, wings spread.

Flocks skip with their feet.

All that fly and alight
live when thou hast arisen.

How manifold is that which
thou hast made, thou sole god.

There is no other like thee.

Thou didst create the earth
according to thy will,

being alone, everything on earth
which walks and flies on high.

Thy rays nourish the
fields when thou dost rise.

They live and thrive for thee.

Thou makest the seasons
to nourish all thou hast made.

The winter to cool the heat
that they may taste thee.

There is no other that knows thee
save thy son, Akhnaten.

For thou hast made him skilled
in thy plans and thy might.

Thou dost raise him up for thy son

Who comes forth from thyself.

There is no other that knows thee
save thy son, Akhnaten.

For thou hast made him skilled
in thy plans and thy might.

Thou dost raise him up for thy son

who comes forth from thyself.

-At the end of the previous act,

Akhnaten has sung
his "Hymn to the Sun"

and has created a new religion
devoted to one god.

But he was too far ahead
of his time,

as we will see in the concluding
act of "Akhnaten."

Subtitles are provided only for
scene headings and select text.

- I have written repeatedly
for troops,

but they were not given,

and the king did not listen
to the word of his servant.

And I sent my messenger
to the palace,

but he returned empty-handed.

He brought no troops.

And when the people of my house
saw this,

they ridiculed me
like the governors, my brethren,

and despised me.

The king's whole land, which has
begun hostilities with me,

will be lost.

Behold the territory of Seir,
as far as Carmel.

Its princes are wholly lost

and hostilities prevail
against me.

As long as ships
were upon the sea,

the strong arm of the king
occupied Naharin and Kash,

but now the Apiru
are occupying the king's cities.

There remains not one prince
to my lord, the king.

Everyone is ruined.

Let the king take care of his
land and let him send troops.

For if no troops
come in this year,

the whole territory of my lord,
the king, will perish.

If there are no troops
in this year,

let the king send his officer
to fetch me and his brothers

that we may die
with our lord, the king.

Verily, thy father
did not march forth

nor inspect the lands
of the vassal-princes.

And when thou ascended the
throne of thy father's house,

Abdashirta's sons took
the king's land for themselves.

Creatures of the king of Mittani
are they

and of the king of Babylon
and of the king of the Hittites.

Who formerly could have
plundered Tunip

without being plundered
by Thutmose III?

The gods of the king of Egypt,
my lord, dwell in Tunip.

May my lord ask his old men
if this not be so.

Now, however, we belong no more
to our lord, the king of Egypt.

And now Tunip, thy city, weeps
and her tears are flowing

and there is no help for us.

For 20 years we have been
sending to our lord,

the king of Egypt,

but there has not come
to us a word.

No, not one.

- The sun of him
who knew thee not...

has set, O Amon.

But, as for him who knows thee,
he shines.

The temple of him who assailed
Thee is in darkness,

while the whole earth
is in sunlight.

Who so puts thee in his heart,
O Amon,

lo, his sun hath risen.

The new ruler,
performing benefactions

for his father, Amon,

and all the gods

has made what was ruined

to endure as a monument
for the ages of eternity.

And he has expelled
the great criminal.

And justice was established.

He surpassed what had been done

He fashioned his father, Amon,
upon 13 carrying poles,

his holy image being
of fine gold, lapis lazuli,

and every august costly stone.

the majesty of this august god

had been upon 11 carrying poles.

All the property of the temples
has been doubled and tripled

and quadrupled
in silver, gold, lapis lazuli,

every kind
of august costly stone,

royal linen, white linen,
fine linen, olive oil, gum,

fat, incense, myrrh,
without limit to any good thing.

His majesty, life!



Has built their barques
upon the river

of new cedar from the terraces.

They make the river shine.

- To reach Tel-el-Amarna, drive
eight miles south of Malawi

to the point
where you cross the Nile.

On the east side of the Nile
the distance is less than a mile

and can be covered on foot
or on donkey.

Behind the present village,

at the ancient site
of Tel-el-Amarna,

the ruins known
as the Palace of Nefertiti

are among the very few remnants
from the Akhnaten period.

Tablets from
the cuneiform writing,

containing correspondence
between Egypt and Syria,

were found here
and are now in the Cairo Museum.

To see any sights on the Eastern
bank of the river

you must cross by ferry,
which carries cars

along with the usual
donkey carts and local traffic.

The ferry docking station
is located

at the southern end of the town.

You should arrive
at least one-half hour

before the 6:00 a.m. crossing.

The ferry does a brisk business,
and you will need

every available second
for sightseeing.

There is nothing left

of this glorious city
of temples and palaces.

The mud brick buildings
have long since crumbled,

and little remains
of the immense stone temples

but the outlines of floor plans.

In addition to the tombs
and ruins of the city,

there are several stelae
scattered around the plain

marking the limits of the land
belonging to the city.

Most of them are
too widely scattered to visit

and are also in bad condition.

- Whoo!
- Bravo!

-I'm free!

Thank you, guys.
Great job.

- This production is
director Phelim McDermott's

second Philip Glass opera
for the Met.

General Manager Peter Gelb
spoke to Phelim

about his bold vision

for the ancient Egyptian world
of "Akhnaten."

- Phelim, I'm sure our audiences
would agree that this is perhaps

the most unusual
and beautiful production

to be on the stage of the Met

since the last opera
of Philip Glass'

that you directed here,

Um, and these certainly
are times

when we need some beauty
in our lives.

- Mm-hmm.
- Um, how... what...

What inspired you to come up
with the idea

of a convergence of juggling
and and opera?

- I mean, you mentioned

so, in that opera, we explored
a vocabulary with puppetry

and using, like,
materials and objects.

And, uh, my little confession...

I was floating
in a floatation tank,

which I do sometimes

for relaxation
and, uh, imagination purposes.

And I got an image of...
I was thinking about the music,

and I got an image
of... of juggling.

And then I was told to get
in touch with Sean Gandini...

Extraordinary Sean... who people
have been seeing on stage.


- And in that conversation,
he said to me,

"You do know
the first example of, uh...

Of juggling in any culture,

um, is an Egyptian hieroglyphic
of, uh, these women juggling."

And that...
As far as I was concerned,

that was a kind of
an affirmative sign

to my, eh, intuition.

But, obviously, there...
And people will have seen

there's a relationship
of the patterns that the...

- Right.
- Kind of poetic juggling

makes with the music.

It is a bit like the music's
being visualized.

- And Philip Glass has said that,
uh, he was inspired

by the life of Akhnaten,
who he learned about

from reading, uh, Sigmund Freud,

uh, that particularly
the aspect of Akhnaten

as being way ahead
of his time...

- Mmm.
- As a first, um, believer

and... who introduced
the idea of one god...

-One single god, yes.

- to the people of... of...
The ancient people of Egypt.

- Yeah.
- So, how does that... I mean,

how does that concept
sort of affect

what you were doing
in terms of... of your approach

to the production?

- I mean, obviously, there's this
kind of...

Right in the center
of the whole piece,

which is in Act II, there is
this image of the sun

and the "Hymn to the Sun,"
which is the, you know,

the biggest kind of sphere

in the whole, whole,
whole production.

So, that kind of binds
the whole thing together.

So, the whole thing,
if you think about it, is...

It's got radiating
sort of sun-like energy

through the whole production.

It's the opposite end of
the spectrum from "Satyagraha."

Rather than being kind of
this kind of very humble thing,

it's kind of opulent.

And he built this...
You know, this city...

In the space of 15 years,
this whole culture was built

that was based around the sun.

So, in a way, I think what we're
trying to do in the design

and the production

is give people
the extraordinary feeling

of the... the change he made,

but the extraordinary world
that he created...

- Right.
- Whilst he was here

in his short life.

- I sort of feel,
watching the rehearsals

and the performances,

as if you've opened up a portal
to this ancient world.

-I mean, I think that's right.

In the prelude,
there's a bit where,

in rehearsals, when we've...
The orchestra first arrives

and we start to do the prelude,

and I can tell
if things are going well

if I get slightly scared
at the beginning.

'Cause I get both excited
and scared

that we have, yeah,
opened that portal.

I feel like, in the first act,

we release the kind of
ancient Egyptian gods,

the spirits, from the tombs.

And they have a chance, through
this extraordinary medium,

to communicate some of
what that culture was like,

which I don't think you can get
from just getting the facts.

'Cause, of course,
there's beautiful music

that's communicating that,
as well.

- Thank you for giving this great
gift to our... to our audiences.

-It's an absolute pleasure.

- Now, I'm joined by
the juggling maestros,

Sean Gandini
and Kati Yla-Hokkala,

founders of Gandini Juggling.

Sean is also the choreographer
of this production.

Hello. Welcome.
- Hi-ya.

Nice to meet you.

- Why do you think
this particular opera

is so suited to this
imaginative idea of juggling?

- I think that Glass music
calls for juggling.

For me, whenever I used
to hear Glass,

I always thought juggling.

And I was so happy that Phelim
had this sort of dream, vision.

There's something about
how the music's written,

which fits rhythmically
with... with the juggling...

The polyrhythms and the -
the repeated motifs.

- Now, I understand that part
of the creative process

involves getting everyone
involved in the production

to juggle,
including the entire chorus.

So, Kati, how do you
teach juggling to a novice?

-Well, it's... it's so much fun.

It's fun to try,
and it's such a great skill

to impress your kids with
and your colleagues with.

And I... They've done
such an amazing job, the chorus.

- How long until
you actually get the rhythm?

-A few minutes.

- Really?
- Yeah.

- A few minutes.
Do you want to have a go?

- That's extraordinary.
At the break.

At the break.
Not on camera.

- Karen, the conductress,
is doing beautiful juggling.

- Yeah.
- Amazing.

- I think we have about
38% of the Met

juggling at the moment.

-This is amazing.

And tell us about how you
coordinate this

with the conductor,
Karen Kamensek,

who's also a juggler.

- Do you want to say...
- No, no, please do.

-No, we sat down with the score,

and actually the next scene
we're about to do, the battle,

for us rhythmically
is the most complex

because we're counting fives
and sevens, the same way she is.

- Yeah.
- And sometimes we need to juggle

at twice the speed
that she's conducting.

- Ah.
- And we occasionally peek

from the corner
of our eye to see.

But she's the most generous
conductor in the world.

She asked us,
"Was that too fast?

Was that too slow?"

- Amazing.
- We're very lucky.

- She's a good juggler. Yeah.
- Okay.

So, how did the composer,
Philip Glass, react

when he saw his music
coming to life in the juggling?

-Actually, he said the juggling

was now indispensable
for "Akhnaten."


- He'd seen the opera
a few times,

but here in New York,
he watched us do a lecture,

and he said, "Yes, I understand.
It's like the music."

- Oh, I love that.
- "It's a visual...

It's like a visual illustration
of the score," he said.

So, that made us happy.

- Well, this is what we feel
watching it, too...

That they were just meant
to be together.

- Well, they need to be together
forever and ever.

- Sean and Kati,
your work is extraordinary,

and we're so grateful
to have you here.

- Thank you
for all the nice words.

- Thank you so much.
- Bye.

- And now, the moment
we've all been waiting for...

My good friend
and the astonishing talent,

Anthony Roth Costanzo.

I'm having a hard time
looking at you.

- I can't look at you, Joyce.
I love you so much.

- No. I love you, because what
you're doing here is...

It's just... It's extraordinary.

And I almost hesitate
to sort of break the spell.

But you've just finished really
one of the opera world's

most gorgeous arias,
but still unknown to the...

To the general
opera-loving population.

Not any longer, after today.

Would it be fair to ask
if this is the pinnacle moment

of the opera for you?

-It definitely is.

And it's also...
It's a tightrope walk,

which is what makes it
so exciting.

And it's so personal.

You know, it's the only thing
in the opera in English,

and it's because
Akhnaten, I feel,

is having a prayer
with his god by himself,

so we hear his thoughts.

And after this temple scene
of clubs flying

and "ha-ha-ha, ha-ha-ha,"

and then this very difficult
duet with interweaving lines,

all of a sudden, it's just me
vulnerable out there,

and I...
- And you float across the stage.

-Oh, thank you.

- When you're climbing
these stairs at the end,

what's... what's in your head?
What are you thinking?

- You know,
there's a couple things.

Like all opera singers,
I have 10% of me

focused on the technique.
- Yeah.

- Which means foot
and then raise

and then step
and then don't fall

and then your foot
is on your dress.

But the other part of me,
I look up,

and I feel the light of the sun
on my face.

And it feels,
not to sound corny,

but like I'm in Egypt.
- Yeah.

- And I feel...
Before the show today,

I was thinking of
the ancient spirits

that inspired this opera

and that are then channeled
and released through us today.

So, it's kind of exciting stuff.

- That reminds me
of a social media question

that we have
that I want to ask you,

and it's from Cynthia Wilcox.

- Yeah.
- "Anthony, we've heard about

the... mmm, mmm...
The painful waxing sessions

you've endured
for your role as Akhnaten.

Is this... Or what is the most
extreme thing you've done

in order to achieve
your best in an opera?"

-I would say this.

I mean, the waxing is actually

how I became a countertenor
to begin with.

Just kidding!

-Mental note to self.

- If people ask you...
Mental note...

That's how you do it.

There's a lot that
is involved in this.

And the question is why?

That's what I asked
the director... "Why be naked?

Why be waxed?
Why be... shave my head?"

And he said, "Because you,
for three hours,

have to take us
somewhere different,

and you have to be
somewhere different yourself."

So, when I go
to the grocery store,

I feel like an alien.

But when I step on this stage
dressed like this,

I feel like Akhnaten.

- Anthony, thank you.
- Joyce.

- I know all of us
who love you...

We're so proud of you
for this moment.

- I love you to pieces.
Thank you, Joyce. Mwah!

- Give me some gold leaf, baby.
- Mwah!

Oh, yeah, you've got gold
all over you.

Bye, Joyce.

- Philip Glass's opera
has no violins,

which is a story in itself.

I welcome now the Met violist
who is finding himself

in the unusual position
of concert master,

Milan Milisavljevic.

I'm going to have
a confession now.

The viola...
This is not a joke...

Is actually,
other than the cello,

my favorite instrument.

And Philip Glass
famously tells the story

that the orchestra
had to be small

because of its debut
in Stuttgart, 1984.

So, he comes up with the idea
of putting the violas in charge.

How does this feel?

- It definitely feels unusual,
but also really fun.

I would say one unusual thing
about it is that

we don't sit
in our usual place in the pit.

Now we're sitting usually
where the first violins are.

You know, we kind of have
a more prominent role.

All the strings are on one side.

What I have to do personally
is tune the orchestra.

Plus, I have to, you know,

play the role of mediator

and somebody who makes sure that
everything's running smoothly

and the communication between
the conductor and the orchestra

is running well, which is
the concert master's job.


- So, yeah,
I think it's really fun.

- It's the first time
playing this score.

It's very demanding
for concentration, et cetera.

But what are some of
the specific things

that you all are trying
to create in the pit?

- I think it's a lot about this
kind of sense of kinetic energy,

a lot like what the acrobats
are doing onstage.

- Hmm.
- You just kind of...

You have to get
into the groove of things.

-But like Anthony was saying,

without losing that
10% of concentration.

-Oh, yeah.

- Because that would
be disastrous.

-Absolutely. Absolutely.

'Cause, actually, honestly,
it's not difficult to get lost.

You have to really pay attention
to where you are

'cause there's a lot of,
you know, repetitive figures,

and they just kind of
create this energy

that we kind of try to enjoy
and flow with.

- Thank you so much.
- Thank you, Joyce.

- Welcome to the leading
of the orchestra.

- Yeah, it's been fun,
it's been fun.

- We're enjoying it so much.
- Yeah, I'm enjoying it, too.

- Thank you.
- Thank you so much.

- My pleasure.
Thank you.

-J'Nai, brava.

It's so beautiful
to behold this marriage

of this staging and this music.

And this is how you're making
your Metropolitan Opera debut...

- Yeah.
- In this really, um,

historic production here,
playing a legendary queen.

- Okay?
- I read that Nefertiti

actually played a role
in your childhood.


Growing up
in Tacoma, Washington,

there weren't necessarily a lot
of African images that we saw.

So, my family made it a point
to have African art,

African symbols, music,

and Nefertiti was a big icon
in my household.

And so making my Met debut
in this iconic role

feels really just so right.

- And I love this...
You were the captain

of your high school
basketball team.

- I was.
- So, I'm curious.

Like, how did opera
beat out the basketball?

- Well, I was kind of forced
to make a decision.

It was a very unfortunate

where my coach at the time said,
"I'm not going to play you

because you chose singing
over, um, basketball."

- Ah!
- So, I said, "Well, you know,

since you can't guarantee that
you're going to play me further,

I can guarantee you
that this will be the last day

of my competitive
basketball career."

And it was a difficult time.

But I would say that I... I made
the right decision in the end.

- Yeah, well, I think we would
all agree with that.


Isn't that funny how

sometimes the biggest tragedies
grow into something that...

- Yeah. So, I'm thankful.
- Put you on the path. Yeah.

-It is. Yeah.

- Some people refer to you
as the Beyoncé of opera.

Can we get the wind machine in?
Wind machine, please.

Tell us about that.

-Beyoncé is Beyoncé.

She is in a realm of her own,

and I've admired her
since I was a little girl.

- Yeah.
- Um, so at first,

I was a little bit hesitant,
but, you know, it kept coming.

I couldn't stop it.

And so, at this point,
I fully embrace it.

I am channeling every queen
with this role,

and she is
at the top of the list.

- But, to be sure,
there is no other J'Nai Bridges.

- Ohh!
- I mean, you don't need...

You don't need
another title, as well.

Thank you, J'Nai.
Thank you so much.

- Thank you, Joyce.
Thank you.

- I'm in
the conductor's dressing room

with Karen Kamensek.

Hello, Maestro.
- Hello.

- I'm just mesmerized by this production

The performance and the music.

As the commander-in-chief

of all these astonishing
musical forces,

what's your priority?

What are you striving for
in the performance

in terms of the ensemble,
the chorus,

the soloists, the juggling?

- The juggling.

I'm just trying
to keep everyone calm.

This is a very, very difficult
piece for everyone,

and they profit from giving
their best,

playing their "A" game,

if I'm absolutely calm

and just kind of
a pole of tranquility

that they can focus on
when they need me.

- This is your
Metropolitan Opera debut.

Aren't you also nervous?

- I've done a lot
of Philip Glass,

so I'm very comfortable
with this music,

and, um, I've learned
through the years

how to keep myself calm.

Also, in the days before,

when I'm doing
a production like this,

it's a whole mentality
that I need to...

To kind of engrain in my head.

- You mentioned
that Philip Glass...

You've been doing
a lot of his music.

He's been such a fundamental
part of your career, as well.


- What first drew you
to his music?

- I first discovered it
at Indiana University.

They played "Koyaanisqatsi"
and "Powaqqatsi"

in a sort of alternative
film series.

So, I heard the music and
absolutely fell in love with it

and said back then,
"I want to conduct this music."

And then, serendipitously,
my musical ways

led me to him
about three years later.

And then he raised me sort of
in his music from the bottom-up.

- And you're, in a way,
working with your idol.

-I am.

- Does he... he gives you a lot
of specific feedback?

- He does not,
which means, I'm...

I guess I'm doing it right.

I mean, he's...

He's always very supportive
and very complimentary.

And I suppose
if I did anything wrong,

he would... he would
express a wish.

But up until now,
it's been just positive.

- What effect does having...
Of the sound of the orchestra

when it's being led
by the violas?

- Well, it's... it's really new.
I mean, it's very rich,

so I feel very grounded
when I hear that sound.

And that, in tandem with
Anthony's countertenor voice,

is a very unique sound
and very fulfilling, actually.

The high frequencies
are kind of missing,

so you can kind of settle,

and it's a different
kind of flow,

a different kind of meditation.

- This orchestra
is used to playing

such a wide variety of styles,

but not with
a huge history of Glass.

So, what does this score
demand of them?

- Absolute concentration
in a different way

than the regular repertoire.

It's very naked, so there's
a lot of unison playing,

which, um,
brings in tuning issues

that they may not
be familiar with.

So, it's been kind of like
taking a lump of clay

and honing it down each day
a little bit more

until they get comfortable

in this new language
that they're speaking.

And rhythmically, you know,

I'm a bit of a metronome
there for them,

and we learn a lot
about rhythmic integrity.

Um, Western classical music

tends to steal
little bits of beats

or the fourth beat

and to lurch
towards the downbeat.

And this is really sitting back
in the saddle

and letting the horse kind of
just go along how it needs to.

- And it's the most difficult
thing of all, that simplicity.

-To let it go.

When there's nothing to do,
do nothing.

- Yeah.
- Yeah.

- Thank you for this experience.
- Thank you so much.

- I know all of us watching
will never, never forget it.

- It's a pleasure.
Thank you, thank you.

- Thank you, Maestro.
Thank you.

- Now I have the extreme pleasure
of speaking with

the head of the Met's
costume shop, Elissa Iberti,

who will introduce us
to Kevin Pollard's

really extraordinary
designs for "Akhnaten."

Hello, Elissa. Hi.
- Hi, Joyce. How are you?

-Lovely to see you.

Do you and your team... I mean,
you must get extra inspired

when you see these designs
come across your desk

and you get to start
working on them.

-With working with Kevin,

it's always
this amazing discovery.

Like, we never know
what he has up his sleeve.

So, this is just, um,
his imagination.

It's an homage to the period.

I mean, you can
sort of read this

like a hieroglyphic of itself.

- Yeah.
- And from stage, this glistens.

You know, and then up close,
you have this little discovery

of all these little components.

When I spoke with Kevin
in detail about this,

if you sort of zoom in on
all of these little doll heads

and all the gems that are here,
I mean, he stacked this

with the storytelling
that's going on on stage,

and he's created
this world of a timelessness,

which we'll see when it becomes
more of a prop in the end.

- Mmm.
- Um, but it tells the story

of Egypt and discovery.

And it's really based on

some classic Elizabethan
costume research,

because there is
a hoop underneath it.


- And he wanted to tie
the two times together.

- I love it.
How much does this weigh?

-Um, I'm going to say

it's somewhere
between 30 and 40 pounds.


One of my favorite quotes
from Kevin

during "The Enchanted Island"

was "Honey, Joyce,
more is more."

And in this case,
in this production of Egypt,

I mean, that's... it holds true.

Elissa, on behalf
of everybody watching,

thank you for the dedicated work
of you and your team.

You guys are in the midst
of hundreds of costumes,

thousands of costumes.
- We are.

- And to pull this off for us
is just a feast.

Thank you so much.
- Thank you.

- I'm joined now
by Zachary James,

who plays Amenhotep,
the ghost of Akhnaten's father.

Hello, Zack.
- Hello, hello.

- You are the gorgeous, amazing,
astonishing narrative thread

of this opera for us

and the responsibility
to guide us through the piece.

You are a trained opera singer.
- Yes.

- And while we don't get to hear
you actually sing today,

we still hear your incredible,
wonderful voice support.

And it's so central to the show.

Describe your approach
to this speaking role

on the stage of the Met...
- Sure.

- in terms of support,

- Yeah. It kind of feels
Wagnerian, honestly.

It feels like Wagnerian recit.
It's very, uh, trippy in a way.

And, uh, you have to fill
the whole space

and, uh, really, you know, hear
yourself in the space and...

The same way
with singing, really.

- So, even though
you're not singing,

Philip Glass has inscribed
the spoken lines like a role.

- Yes.
- So, what kind of...

Is it like recitative?
It gives you a lot of freedom?

-It truly is.

And, uh, I have to watch
Karen, the conductor,

because there are times
when I see

that she starts a four pattern,
that I have three measures

to finish
before the orchestra explodes.

Um, so it's all really timed out

and you really have to be
a musician with it.

It's quite complicated.

- And on top of that,
you're one of the soloists

who has to learn how to juggle.
- Ooh, yeah, yeah.

- So, give me the timeline
on that, about how...

- Yeah, um, I learned to juggle
for this show.

Um, Sean Gandini
and the troop taught me.

Um, I was a kid
who never threw or caught.

I didn't do sports.
I was a piano kid.

So, it was quite terrifying.

- What I've enjoyed so much
about this today

is that it really feels like
we're introducing a piece

that a lot of people...
It's not in...

- Yeah.
- The standard repertoire.

- Yeah, we're introducing it
to the world.

It's a very special moment.

And to have so many people
joining in on that journey

is very special.

And we have "Akhnaten" fans

that have seen it
in London twice and L.A.,

and they follow along,
so we have a lot of...

- I predict they're going
to become

like Deadheads along the time
and become groupies for this.

- Yeah. Yeah.
- Zachary, thank you so much.

- Thank you.
- Thank you.

- Disella, brava.
Oh, my gosh.

- Thank you. Thank you.
- Oh, my gosh.


Tell us how it feels

singing in this different musical

- Oh, it's... it takes you
in a trance, the whole thing.

It's just... It doesn't feel
like such a long time.

You just go on stage,
and it... it sort of...

It feels like meditation,

-Yeah. That's what we feel, too.

That's the exact impression
we get.

But this is happening while
you're up in the stratosphere

singing so extraordinarily.

How do you maintain
just the freedom

and the beauty of your voice?

- Well, this role
is particularly difficult

because it... it only shows
a portion of, uh, one's voice.

So, um, it's so important

to not just warm up
but to warm down.

- Mmm.
- And to keep the voice flexible

in between these, uh, acts.

- And as a singer,
I'm sitting here going,

"Where do you begin
to memorize this,

in terms of role preparation?"

How do you start,
and how do you...

When does it finally click?

- Uh, well, for me, this was...

This was actually not
particularly hard to memorize.

That was not the...
My main concern.

The concern was, well, first,
when I saw the page,

I thought
this was impossible really.

- Yeah.
- It just lies so high,

and it's, uh, repetitive.

And I just thought
this was impossible.

And I think that
just by trying to...

To, uh, get through this,

you sort of accidentally
memorize it, really.

- So, I'm sure you've handled
a lot of props in your career.

-Yes, yes.

- And a lot of
different costumes. as well.

- Yeah.
- But this time,

you're actually holding
a bloody heart.

- Yes.
My husband's heart, yeah.

- We sing about that
a lot in the opera,

but we don't always see it.

So, tell us a little bit

about this weighing the heart
and the feather.

- Oh, well, it's my husband's
heart, who just passed away,

and it needs to be weighed

to see
if he can enter the afterlife.

- Yeah.
- And then I...

Afterwards, in Act II,
I get this beautiful feather,

and it's actually my weapon.

- Ah!
- 'Cause I'm a fierce queen.

- Beautiful, Disella.
- Thank you.

-Thank you so much for coming.

We look forward to seeing you
in the second act.

- Mwah! Thank you.
- Full queen.

I'm joined now by
bass Richard Bernstein,

who plays
Nefertiti's father, Aye,

baritone Will Liverman,
who plays General Horemhab,

and tenor Aaron Blake, who sings
the High Priest of Amon.

Hello, gentlemen
and your headdresses.

- Hi, Joyce.
- Hello.

- These are some
extraordinary costumes.

I mean, up close, they're
just... It's unbelievable.

Not to mention the makeup.
I'm a little jealous.

I'm taking notes.

Tell us about these.

And what are the challenges
of using them

and showing them
and singing with them?

- These are obviously
a little bit heavier pieces

than we would wear
in everyday life.

So, it takes
a little bit of time

to get used to
carrying them around.

And I have this fab cape,
so I get to show it off

to the audience a few times.
- Yes, you do.

- I think my costume
feels fabulous.

I mean...
- It's a good one.

- it was designed brilliantly
by Kevin Pollard.

-I love them.

- The hat symbolizes
fear and death.

Um, I... You don't really see it
in this,

but his backstory
is very political.

He actually becomes the pharaoh
after Tutankhamen dies

and actually take it off...
We have a war.

- Yep.
Yeah, I get it after you.

-So, the costume helps.

- Richard, you're
one of the go-to artists

here at the Met, having sung

an astonishing 34 different
roles over the years.

How does this one make it...
Become memorable for you?

How does it stand apart?

- Oh, that's
a very easy question.

I've made some really wonderful
new friends...

These two gentlemen right here.

- Yeah.
- It's such an ensemble piece.

We've had this incredible
rehearsal process

that is second to none, really.

- Mm hmm.
- Yeah.

- You know, working
with Phelim McDermott

and, you know,
with all the collaborators.

- Will, this production
requires singers

who move
in this very slow, stylized way.

- Mm hmm.
- Which, of course,

fits the music perfectly.
- Yeah, yeah.

- I'm saying it sort of expands
in this way

that is just extraordinary.
- Yeah, yeah.

- What's your approach
to integrating the movement

so that the singing
just feels organic?

- For me, I'd say it really...
My... the things I do, really,

I go off of what Aaron
and Richard do, honestly.

Because it's...
It is an ensemble piece,

and even though we have

our individual characters
within that,

we're always together,
and we kind of move as a unit.

So, whenever I feel
Aaron doing something,

I sort of, you know,
play off that

and connect
with what he's doing and just...

We feel each other's energies
and sort of...

Sort of create something,
uh, new each time, honestly.

It's different every time
we do it.

- Absolutely.
- Thank you, gentlemen.

-Thank you so much.

- I hope you have a lot
of photos in these.

-Yes, they're the best.

- I'm sure your kids
are loving it.

- They're loving it.
- I love it.

Thank you, guys, so much.
- Thank you, Joyce.

- Thank you.
- Thank you.