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By Philip Glass 


In ancient Egypt, Akhnaten ascends to the throne along with his bride Nefertiti. He has a vision for his people, a vision that abandons the worship of many gods for just one: the Sun God who reigns supreme. Akhnaten's bold attempt to alter the course of history with a single revolutionary idea ultimately leads to his violent overthrow.

The mesmerizing score by Philip Glass is filled with driving rhythms and powerful choral harmonies. Akhnaten comes to Los Angeles in an all-new production by renowned director Phelim McDermott, led by the brilliant young conductor Matthew Aucoin, LA Opera's new Artist in Residence.

"Significant… eye-popping new production. Now, thanks to LA Opera, we have the first major American “Akhnaten” in more than quarter-century" - Los Angeles Times


There are currently no upcoming performances.

Contains nudity. Parental discretion advised.

Libretto by the composer in association with Shalom Goldman, Robert Israel and Richard Riddell. Vocal text drawn from original sources by Shalom Goldman.

New co-production with English National Opera.
A collaboration with Improbable. 

Approximate running time: three hours, including two intermissions

Join us for After Hours: A Musical Nocturne, a special program after select performances of Akhnaten, curated by Matthew Aucoin.  

Presents Akhnaten Thursday, November 10


Creative Team


Act One: Year 1 of Akhnaten’s reign. Thebes.
Funeral of Amenhotep III
The opera begins with the death of Amenhotep III. We see him first revealed both as a corpse and as a ghostly figure, reciting words taken from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. During the ceremony, we see a sacred ritual performed in which the body’s organs are carefully taken out and placed into canopic jars and the body is wrapped and embalmed. A ceremony takes place that represents a ritual occurring in the Book of the Dead, in which the Pharaoh’s heart is weighed against a feather; if his heart is as light as this, it will ensure that Amenhotep will travel through into the afterlife.

Coronation of Akhnaten
The figure of Amenhotep’s son steps forward and the coronation ceremony begins. The new pharaoh is dressed in sacred robes and the crowns representing Upper and Lower Egypt are brought together to symbolize Amenhotep IV’s power over all of Egypt. Once he is crowned, the new Pharaoh rises up the stairs to make his first pronouncement.

The Window of Appearances
At the Window of Appearances, the Pharaoh reveals his intentions to form a monotheistic religion. He changes his name from Amenhotep IV (meaning “Spirit of Amon”) to Akhnaten (meaning “spirit of Aten”). Aten, the sun god, is glorified by Akhnaten, his wife Nefertiti and Queen Tye, his mother. As the trio make their pronouncement at the window, the sun rises behind them.


Act Two: Years 5 to 15. Thebes and Akhetaten.
The Temple
Akhnaten and Queen Tye begin to make the changes that he has promised. He leads a revolt to banish the old religion and replace it with his own. Akhnaten enters the temple and finds the priests performing the old religious rituals. Akhnaten banishes them and forms the new order of Aten.

Akhnaten and Nefertiti
A simple duet is performed by Akhnaten and Nefertiti, which affirms their love for each other.

The City
The site for a new city is chosen carefully. The new city of Akhetaten—“The City of the Horizon of Aten”—is built in praise of the new religion.
HymnAkhnaten sings a private prayer to his god. His vision of a new religion and a new society is complete.


Act Three: Year 17 and the present. Akhetaten.
The Family
Akhnaten and Nefertiti dwell in an insular world of their own creation with their six daughters. Meanwhile Queen Tye is uneasy. She senses unrest beyond the city’s walls. Crowds gather outside the gates and letters arrive expressing increasing concern about Akhnaten’s self-imposed isolation.

Attack and Fall
The priests of Amon emerge from the gathering crowds and break through the palace doors. The daughters try to escape and are drawn away from Akhnaten and into the swelling mass. Queen Tye and Nefertiti are also separated from Akhnaten, who is finally killed.

The Ruins
Akhnaten’s father mourns his son’s death. Meanwhile the new Pharaoh, the young Tutenkhamun, is crowned in a ceremony similar to that of his father, and the old polytheistic religion is restored.

Intercutting this ceremony, a group of modern-day students is listening to a lecture given by a professor.

The ghosts of Akhnaten, Nefertiti and Queen Tye are heard from the ancient world once again.

Synopsis courtesy of English National Opera

News & Reviews


opera chose j'nai bridges



The 2016/17 season is a big year for J’Nai Bridges. She recently made her San Francisco Opera debut as Bersi in Andrea Chenier (a role she will later reprise at Bavarian State Opera in Munich), Bridges made LA Opera debut as Nefertiti in Philip Glass’s Akhnaten on November 5. She has become one of the most sought after mezzo-sopranos of her generation, but she didn’t always long for a career in opera.


Prior to every performance, LA Opera's acclaimed Music Director Maestro James Conlon and other scholars of note hold an engaging and informative talk about the opera our audience is about to see. Generously sponsored by The Flora L. Thornton Foundation and The Opera League of Los Angeles, these talks are free of charge to those attending the performance and take place in the Eva and Marc Stern Grand Hall inside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. 

Akhnaten pre-show talks will be given by conductor and Artist-in-Residence, Matthew Aucoin.On Thursday, November 17, Akhnaten composer Philip Glass will also make a special appearance.

Check back here a few minutes before the show to see a live stream of the pre-show lecture for Akhnaten.