Akhnaten Akhnaten - Philip Glass
An Opera in 3 Acts

AkhnatenCountertenor   Pharaoh, ne Amenhotep IV
NefertitiContraltoQueen of Akhnaten
Queen TyeSopranoGrand Roayal Wife of Amenhotep III
AyBassChief advisor to three Pharaohs
HoremhebBaritoneDiplomat, Army Commander in Chief
High Priest  TenorPriest of Amun

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Background: - see Note-1.

Horizon:   Used in this context, is the "horizon" between the world of the living and of the gods.

Act 1:   Year 1 of Akhnaten's Reign in Thebes, 1370 BCE

Scribe - (English)   recites funeral texts from the pyramids. "Open are the double doors of the horizon; unlocked are its bolts."

Scene-1   Funeral of Amenhotep III
Aye, Choruses - (Egyptian)   Chant funeral hymn

Scene-2   Coronation of Amenhotep IV (later Akhnaten)
High Priest, Aye, Horemheb - (Egyptian)   Sing ritual text.
Scribe - (English)   Lists Royal Titles
Chorus - (Egyptian)   Repeats ritual text.

Scene-3   At the Window of Appearances
Akhnaten - (Egyptian)   Sings praise to the Creator as Countertenor
Nefertiti   Joins in, a shade lower
Tye   Joins in as high soprano

Act 2:   Years 5 to 15 in Thebes and Akhet-Aten

Scene-1   At the Temple of Amun
High Priest, Chorus   Sing hymn to Amun
At this point Akhnaten, Tye and followers attack the temple and tear off its roof, ending the rein of Amun.

Scene-2   Akhnaten & Nefertiti
Scribe - (English)   recites a prayer-like poem to the the Aten
Akhnaten - (Egyptian?)   This is repeated as a love poem from Akhnaten to Nefertiti
Akhnaten, Nefertiti   The poem is repeated as Akhnaten and Nefertiti sing it to each other.

Scene-3   City of Akhet-Aten (Horizon of Aten)
Scribe:   Reads texts from boundary stones from Akht-Aten
Completion of the city is celebrated.

Scene-4   Hymn to The Aten
Akhnaten - (English)   sings a hymn to The Aten.
Hebrew Chorus - (Hebrew)   Sings Psalm 104, which is very similar to Akhnaten's hymn (see Note-2).

Act 3:   Year 17 & Present

Scene-1   The Family
Akhnaten, Nefertiti, Daughters Sing wordless praise to The Aten.
Scribe - (English) reads letters from Syrian vassals pleading for military assistance.
Akhnaten and family remain oblivious.

Scene-2   Attack on Akhet-Aten
Horemheb, Aye, High Priest   incite the people.
Chorus - (Akkadian) sings texts from the Syrian letters.
The city is attacked and the royal family killed (not true - see Note-3)

Scene-3   The Ruins
Scribe - (English)   recites inscriptions from Aye's tomb praising the death of the "heretic" and restoration of the old gods.
Scribe describes restoration of the old gods by Akhnaten's son Tutankhamun.
Scribe - (English) takes role of modern tour guide reading brochure on visiting Amarna (formerly Akhet-Aten).

Scene-4   Epilogue
The ghosts of Akhnaten, Nefertiti And Tye are singing wordlessly in the ruins. The funeral procession from the beginning of the opera appears on the horizon, and the ghosts join it.


Note-1:   There are many historical details that are not accurate - but, hey, it's an Opera, what do you expect? Glass' reason for picking Akhnaten was as a "world changer", as the founder of monotheism. Despite earlier ideas, modern scholarship finds no possible connection to Hebrew monotheism, which first formed 400 years later. The term now used for Akhnaten's religion is "henotheism", focus on one god without denying the existence of others.

Note-2:   Psalm-104 is much like Akhnaten's hymn, but it's also much like a whole lot of other hymns from it's time and from Akhnaten's time. Akhnaten's hymn had been erased for 400 years, except on the inside of a few tombs near the abandoned ruins of Akhet-Aten.

Note-3:   Akhet-Aten was not attacked and the royal family was not killed. The fall of Akhet-Aten was complex and took years. Some experts believe Nefertiti died well after Akhnaten, though exact date is unknown, and may have ruled as Pharaoh for a short time between the death of Akhnaten and the coronation of Tutenkhamun. The manner of Akhnaten's death is not known, but he was formally interred in a tomb near Akhet-Aten with the usual trappings - though it was later defiled.

Obviously the family was not killed, as his son, Tutankhaten (Living Image of Aten) became Pharaoh. Two years later he changed his name to Tutenkhamun and moved the capital back to Thebes, begining restoration of the old religion. One of the six daughters may have briefly been Pharoah, if it wasn't Nefertiti. One seems to have been married to another Pharoah, and one was married to Tutenkhamun. It is hard to know the details because Horemheb tried to erase the entire Amarna period as part of his stabalization program.

Tutankhamun appointed Horemheb as his successor, but Ay seized the throne upon his death. Horemheb was with the Army in Asia at the time. Ay's rule was only 4 years, and Horemheb seized the throne upon his death. Horemheb set about destroying monuments to Akhnaten, Tutenkamun, Ay, and whoever it was who was Pharoah between the death of Akhnaten and coronation of Tutenkamun.

Horemheb ruled for 14 years and appointed his vizar Paramesse as his succssor. Under the name Ramesses I, he founded the 19th Dynasty, but died in less than 2 years. He was followed by his son, Seti I who reigned for around 10 years. Seti I was followed by his own son, the great warior Pharaoh Ramesses II, who reigned for 66 years and died at the age of 90.