News Release: Arts and Humanities

Dec. 30,  2008

Emory Presents Philip Glass' 'Akhnaten' in January

King Tutankhamun's Revolutionary Father Is Subject of Emory and Atlanta Opera Presentations

News Article ImagePhilip Glass (L) and Shalom Goldman at the 1984 world premiere of Akhnaten in Stuttgart, West Germany. Courtesy of Shalom Goldman.

From Arts@Emory

Emory University and The Atlanta Opera brings composer Philip Glass and the Atlanta premiere of his exotic opera, "Akhnaten," to Emory in January 2009. There have been fewer than twenty productions of the work, which premiered in 1984. The opera follows the rise and fall of the man many scholars believe to be King Tutankhamun's father, the ancient pharaoh Akhnaten (Amenhotep IV).

The Jan. 23 and Jan. 25 performances are sold out, but those seeking tickets may be placed on a waiting list and will have opportunities to attend presentations by Philip Glass and others. These programs are part of the celebration the Michael C. Carlos Museum presentations of "Wonderful Things: The Harry Burton Photographs and the Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun" and "Tutankhamun: The Golden King & the Great Pharaohs."

For information, the public may call 404-727-5050 or email

"Akhnaten" Production Is Complex

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, "Akhnaten" remains a complex production sung in four languages: ancient Hebrew, Akkadian (from Babylonia), English and ancient Egyptian (derived from hieroglyphs). To create the libretto, Emory Professor of Hebrew and Middle Eastern Studies Shalom Goldman gathered texts from the monuments of Akhnaten's "Lost City" Akhetaten and from poems buried with royal mummies.

Adding to the allure of the opera are its unusual castings of voice, including a countertenor in the title role. The effect underscores how strange and shocking the pharaoh was to the Egypt of his time during his 17-year rule.

Akhnaten was born in 1336 BC. He ruled during the 18th dynasty of Egypt and instituted the worship of one god, the Aten. His battles with the priesthood and his destruction of their temples outraged the populace and cost him his reign -- perhaps even his life. Akhnaten's ties to famous Egyptian figures add the flair of celebrity to this opera. He was married to Queen Nefertiti and he and his minor queen Kiya are believed by many scholars to be King Tut's parents.

After Akhnaten's death and the restoration of polytheism in Egypt, subsequent rulers sought to excise his name from history.

Glass to Participate in Three Public Events

Renowned American composer Philip Glass will participate in three public events at Emory:

Over a career spanning four decades, Glass has composed symphonies, operas, orchestral works and Academy Award nominated film scores.  Glass' Emory visit is made possible by the Michael C. Carlos Museum, the Emory Coca-Cola Artists-in-Residence Program, the Emory University Creativity & Arts Initiative, the Emory College Center for Creativity & Arts, and an anonymous friend of the arts at Emory.

For community outreach events for students not listed below, the public may call 404.727.5050.

Public Events Schedule

Colloquium on Philip Glass' "Akhnaten" with Richard Kagey, Thurs., Jan. 22, 2009, 2:30 p.m., free, Emerson Concert Hall, Schwartz Center, 1700 N. Decatur Rd., Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, 404.727.5050. The Atlanta Opera's stage director for "Akhnaten" talks about the history and humanism of Akhnaten.

"Historical and Imagined Akhnaten," Thurs., Jan. 22, 2009, 7 p.m., free, Reception Hall, Michael C. Carlos Museum, 571 Kilgo Cir., Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, 404.727.5050. Panel: Melinda K. Hartwig, Associate Professor, Ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern Art and Archeology, Department of Art History, Georgia State University; Shalom Goldman, Professor, Hebrew and Middle Eastern Studies, Emory University; and Richard Kagey, stage director, The Atlanta Opera's "Akhnaten."

Philip Glass' "Akhnaten" Performed by The Atlanta Opera, Flora Glenn Candler Concert Series, Arthur Fagen, conductor; Richard Kagey, director; John Gaston (Akhnaten), Mary Ann McCormick (Nefertiti), Kiera Duffy (Queen Tye), Brent Davis (Horemhab), Fri., Jan. 23, 2009, 8 p.m. and Sun., Jan. 25, 5 p.m., ticketed (Sold out. Call 404.727.5050 to be placed on the wait list.), Emerson Concert Hall, Schwartz Center, 1700 N. Decatur Rd., Emory University, Atlanta 30322. This concert-staged performance is the Atlanta premiere of Glass' mesmerizing historical drama about the Egyptian pharaoh.

Pre-Opera Talk with Carter Joseph for Ticketholders, Fri., Jan. 23, 2009, 7-7:30 p.m., talk for "Akhnaten" Jan. 23 performance ticketholders only, Emerson Concert Hall, Schwartz Center, 1700 N. Decatur Rd., Emory University, Atlanta 30322. This pre-opera talk is by Atlanta Opera Honorary Board Member Carter Joseph, who has presented popular Evening at Emory classes and Atlanta Opera talks.

Public Pre-Opera Conversation with Composer Philip Glass and Shalom Goldman, Sun., Jan. 25, 2009, 3:30-4:30 p.m., free and open to the public (not ticketed), Glenn Memorial Auditorium, Emory University, Atlanta, 30322. Philip Glass is joined in discussion by Emory Professor of Hebrew and Middle Eastern Studies Shalom Goldman, the Egyptological advisor to Glass who wrote part of the Akhnaten libretto using ancient Egyptian sources.

Creativity Conversation: Philip Glass Discusses Creativity & Collaboration, Mon., Jan. 26, 2009, 4 p.m., free, Michael C. Carlos Museum, Reception Hall, Emory University, 571 Kilgo Cir., Atlanta, GA, 30322. Composer Philip Glass and Emory University Vice President and Secretary Rosemary Magee discuss Glass' collaborations with artists Robert Wilson, Lucinda Childs, Twyla Tharp and Godfrey Reggio.

Screening of Martin Scorsese's "Kundun" with Introduction by Philip Glass. Mon., Jan. 26, 2009, 6:30 p.m. (6:30-7:15 p.m. introduction; 7:15 p.m. screening), free, White Hall 208, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322. Emory's Film Studies Department presents "Kundun" with an introduction by Philip Glass, who composed the film's Academy Award-winning score. Glass will discuss the traditional Tibetan music and Buddhist influences on the score and his collaboration with Scorsese. This film tells the life story of Tibet's 14th and current Dalai Lama, who is known to his people as Kundun, or "The Presence." The film chronicles the events leading to his escape to India, followed by the 1959 occupation of Tibet. The screening is a fitting addition to Glass' Emory visit because of his interest in Buddhism, Emory's Tibetan Studies Program and the 2007 appointment of the Dalai Lama as Emory Presidential Distinguished Professor.


"Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs," Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center, Atlanta, GA, through May 25, 2009, purchase tickets online at The Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University presents this exhibition at the B. Jones Civic Center. The exhibition spans the greatest eras of Egyptian History -- from the Old Kingdom to the Late Period -- between 2600-660 BC, and features more than 130 objects. The exhibition is organized by National Geographic, Arts and Exhibitions International and AEG Exhibitions, with cooperation from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities. Northern Trust is the presenting sponsor of the tour and American Airlines is the official airline.

"Wonderful Things: The Harry Burton Photographs and the Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun," Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, Atlanta 30322, now through May 25, 2009, admission by $7 suggested donation,  When discovered in 1922, the tomb of King Tutankhamun was filled with spectacular artifacts and each step of the archaeologists' work at the tomb was thoroughly documented by photographer Harry Burton (1879-1940).

View the complete news release at Arts@Emory.


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