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Philip Glass’s Portrait Trilogy

¤  Einstein on the Beach

«Einstein on the Beach» was an opera written and conducted by the minimalist composer Philip Glass, and directed by Robert Wilson. The opera in its complete form is 5 hours long, and has only been performed three times by the Philip Glass Ensemble. The opera portrays Albert Einstein, but was planned from the start to have no actual story line so that people watching could make their own personal connections with Einstein.
The opera consists of four acts, which are separated by «Knees». These «knees» gave the stagehands the opportunity to change scenery between acts, as well as providing a connecting point between the acts, just as a human knee connects your upper and lower legs. They also served the music purpose of creating a recurring theme throughout the opera.

«As a child, Einstein had been one of my heroes,» the composer reflected in his book, Music By Philip Glass (Harper and Row, 1987). «Growing up just after World War II, as I had, it was impossible not to know who he was. The emphatic, if catastrophic, beginnings of the nuclear age had made atomic energy the most widely discussed issue of the day.»

«Philip and I immediately agreed on the overall length of time we wanted to fill – four to five hours,» Robert Wilson said in a recent interview. «We decided that each scene would be about 20 minutes long and that we would connect the scenes together with what I call ‘knee plays’ – the knee is a joint that links two similar elements, hence ‘knee plays.’ I did a series of drawings and Philip set them to music.»

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Wilson stresses that this marked a complete break with traditional theater. «In the past, theater has always been bound by literature. Einstein on the Beachis not. There is no plot – although there are many references to Einstein – and the visual book can stand on its own. We put together the opera the way an architect would build a building. The structure of the music was completely interwoven with the stage action and with the lighting. Everything was all of a piece.»

The Glass-Wilson opera was intended as a metaphorical look at Einstein: scientist, humanist, amateur musician – and the man whose theories, for better and for worse, led to the splitting of the atom. Although it is difficult to discern a «plot» in Einstein, the climactic scene clearly depicted nuclear holocaust: with its renaissance-pure vocal lines, the blast of amplified instruments, a steady eighth-note pulse and the hysterical chorus chanting numerals as quickly and frantically as possible, it seemed to many a musical reflection of the anxious, fin-de-siècle late ’70s.

◊   Einstein on the Beach- Knee 1  ↓

“One, two, three, four, five, six, two three four five six, three four five six…”

♦  Knee Play 3  ↓  (live)

◊  Einstein on the Beach ↓  (Knee 5)

The day with its cares and perplexities is ended and the night is now upon us.

The night should be a time of peace and tranquility, a time to relax and be calm.

We have need of a soothing story to banish the disturbing thoughts of the day,

to set at rest our troubled minds, and put at ease our ruffled spirits.

And what sort of story shall we hear?

Ah, it will be a familiar story, a story that is so very, very old, and yet it is so new.

It is the old, old story of love.

Two lovers sat on a park bench, with their bodies touching each other, holding hands in the moonlight.

There was silence between them.

So profound was their love for each other, they needed no words to express it.

And so they sat in silence, on a park bench, with their bodies touching, holding hands in the moonlight.

Finally she spoke. «Do you love me, John?» she asked.

«You know I love you, darling,» he replied. «I love you more than tongue can tell. You are the light of my life, my sun, moon and stars. You are my everything. Without you I have no reason for being.»

Again there was silence as the two lovers sat on a park bench, their bodies touching, holding hands in the moonlight. Once more she spoke. «How much do you love me, John?» she asked.

He answered: «How much do I love you? Count the stars in the sky. Measure the waters of the oceans with a teaspoon. Number the grains of sand on the sea shore. Impossible, you say.»

«Yes and it is just as impossible for me to say how much I love you.»

«My love for you is higher than the heavens, deeper than Hades, and broader than the earth. It has no limits, no bounds. Everything must have an ending except my love for you.»

There was more of silence as the two lovers sat on a park bench with their bodies touching, holding hands in the moonlight.

Once more her voice was heard. «Kiss me, John,» she implored. And leaning over, he pressed his lips warmly to hers in fervent osculation.

¤  Satyagraha

This opera is loosely based on the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi, and is the second part of Glass’s «Portrait Trilogy» of operas about men who changed the world, which also includes Einstein on the Beach and Akhnaten. Philip Glass’s style can broadly be described as minimalist, but the music in Satyagraha is somewhat more expansive than is implied by that label. The cast of the opera includes 2 sopranos, 2 mezzo-sopranos, 2 tenors, a baritone and 2 basses and a large SATB chorus. The orchestra is strings and woodwinds only, no brass or percussion.

The title of the opera refers to Gandhi’s concept of non-violent resistance to injustice, Satyagraha /sʌtˈjɑːɡrəhə/ (Sanskrit =»insistence on truth»), and the text, from the Bhagavad Gita, is sung in the original Sanskrit. In performance, translation is usually provided in supertitles.

• English librettohttp://www.metoperafamily.org/metupload/Satyagraha_libretto.pdf

◊ Act 1 ↓ «Tolstoy», Scene 1 «The Kuru Field of Justice» (beginning)

Staatsoper Stuttgart  ↑ Conductor: Dennis Russell Davis  –  Stage direction: Achim Freyer

◊  Act 1  ↓  Scene 2 – Tolstoy Farm (1910)

∞  Act 2  ↓ Scene 1 – Confrontation and Rescue (1896)

New York City Opera Chorus & Opera Orchestra ↑ Conducted by Christopher Keene

◊→  Act 3 _  King

¤  Akhnaten

PREFACEG_Akhnaten

«Akhnaten marks the culmination and conclusion of a lengthy period in my compositional life. It completes the trilogy of «portrait» operas I began in 1975 with Einstein on the Beach (in collaboration with Robert Wilson) and continued in 1979 with Satyagraha (whose libretto was a joint effort by me and the writer Constance de Jong, with the assistance of designer Robert Israel).

I will leave detailed remarks about the historical Akhnaten to Shalom Goldman who, with Robert Israel and Richard Riddell, shared with me for over a year the pleasures and pains of shaping this libretto. That shaping began in January 1982, after Akhnaten had been commissioned by the Stuttgart Opera, and continued during the actual process of musical composition, which I started in the summer of 1982. Work on Akhnaten was hardly continuous, though, for during that same time span I wrote such fairly sizeable pieces as The Photographer and Koyaanisqatsi, as well as a number of less expansive works. Numerous performances and tours, some of them international, with the Philip Glass Ensemble further interrupted any musical excursions to ancient Egypt. Eventually, though, both music and text were finished (in July 1983) and, working with Michael Riesman, Kurt Munkacsi and Richard Einhorn, I proceeded to make a complete synthesizer recording of the opera «in real time». I then sent the tapes to the Stuttgart production team eight months before the scheduled date of the opening. On March 24, 1984, Akhnaten had its world premiere in a production by Achim Freyer.

Akhnaten, Gandhi and Einstein – three men who revolutionized the thoughts and events of their times through the power of an inner vision. This, then, is the theme of the trilogy. Einstein – the man of science; Gandhi – the man of politics; Akhnaten – the man of religion. These themes (science, politics, religion) are, to an extent, shared by all three and they inform our ideological and real worlds.

We took all our texts from Akhnaten’s own time, the Amarna period. Decrees, titles, letters, fragments of poems, etc., were all left to be sung in their original languages, thereby emphasizing the artifactual slant of our approach. The greater part of the Amarna period has come down to us as fragments. Therefore, rather than to «make up» the missing parts of this ancient story – to fill in the gaps, as it were – we chose to present the historical period as we found it, much as we might learn from Akhnaten and his time from the partially told story revealed in the exhibition cases of modern museums. The original languages, their sounds and cadences as understood by contemporary scholarship, became part of the story to me and my collaborators.

Our narrator provides the audience, in today’s language, with an account of what is being sung and spoken during each scene.

Each of the three operas of this «portrait» trilogy has its own distinctive sound world. Einstein on the Beach, an opera about a great mathematician who loved music, is for amplified ensemble and small chorus singing a text compromised of numbers (actually the beats of the music) and solfège syllables. Satyagraha, a work about one man leading his people to freedom, is a large choral opera with text taken directly from Gandhi’s philosophical guidebook (the Bhagavad-Gita) in the actual language (Sanskrit) in which he read it. In Akhnaten, my emphasis is orchestral, with choral and solo voices sharing common ground with the orchestra.

Despite the differences in timbre and mood of the three operas in the trilogy, they are strongly linked musically. The «knee plays» (short connecting scenes) of Einstein on the Beach became the source of primary musical materials of the other operas. (In Akhnaten this should be particularly noticeable in the Epilogue.)

Should the three operas be performed within a fairly narrow time span (within the same week, for example), I believe their internal connection will become increasingly obvious and provide the audience with a coherent musical and theatrical experience.»

by Philip Glass

•  SYNOPSIS

Akhnaten, the third of Philip Glass’s «portrait» operas, is based on the life og the Egyptian pharaoh Akhnaten, who ruled Egypt from 1375 BC to 1358 BC. Like Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha, it is not a «story» opera but an episodic-symbolic portrait of a historical personality whose visionary ideas dramatically changed the perceptions of the world around him.

• Act I reveals Akhnaten’s ascendency to the throne. It commences with the death of Amenhotep III, Akhnaten’s father and introduces one of the major recurring themes of the opera – the Egyptian funeral rite. The funeral symbolizes the Egyptian interest in life after death, and, through its recurring presence, it becomes the unifying image of the opera: a shimmering epiphany in which death merges with life and man meets his image of God. It is an image reverberating with the ever present reminder of our shared mortality where ideas are the only accomplishments that survive. Amenhotep IV (meaning «spirit of Amon») is crowned pharaoh, but when he rises to address his people he has become Akhnaten (meaning «spirit of Aten»), signifying his abolition of the god Amon and the pantheistic past of the Egyptians in favor of the innovative concept of the monotheistic god Aten. Unlike other gods who were represented by idols, Aten was the first totally abstract concept of God, and Akhnaten calls on his people to join him in worshipping this revolutionary god. The act ends with Akhnaten watching the funeral of his father crossing into the Land of the Dead. The age of Amon has ended, and the time of Akhnaten has begun.

•  Act II portrays the changes Akhnaten wrought: he leads a revolt that deposes the powerful priests of Amon, the old older; he abandons the polygamy of prior pharaohs for the love of his beautiful wife, Nefertiti; and he creates Akhetaten, «City of the Horizon of Aten», a temple of art and beauty in honor of his new god. Like the legendary King Arthur, here he seeks to create his Camelot, inspired by the beneficence of his god Aten. The act ends with Akhnaten’s hymn to the god, praising its beauty and recognizing it as the force of creation which only he, as the son of Aten, can recognize.

• Act III depicts Akhnaten’s fall. Isolated from his people and oblivious to the pleas of the outlying lands of his kingdom, where foreign barbarians are attacking the Egyptian empire, Akhnaten dwells in an insular world of his own creation: his city Akhetaten and his family. The priests of Amon emerge from the gathering crowds and call for the people to overthrow this pharaoh who ignores the suffering of his people and, lacking a male heir, must be thought cursed by the gods for his heresy. The temple of Akhetaten is destroyed. The old order is restored. Akhetaten is now a ruined city, recently excavated and on view for tourists only to hint at how much has disappeared with time, and in the Epilogue we find Akhnaten and his family wandering among the ruins. Slowly realizing that their time has passed, they join the funeral procession on their last journey… The age of Akhnaten has ended.

◊   Akhnaten ↓ Act I

The Stuttgart State Opera, Orchestra, Chorus;  Dennis Russell Davies

ACT I

(Year 1 of Akhnaten’s Reign Thebes. The opera begins with an orchestral Prelude. The curtain rises towards the end of the Prelude, revealing the Scribe in the funeral setting. He delivers the Refrain, Verse 1 and Verse 2 of the text as the Prelude is completed. In the moments of silence before the funeral begins, he continues his speech through Verse 3)

Prelude  (Text: Recited by the Scribe from the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom)

SCRIBE Refrain Open are the double doors of the horizon Unlocked are its bolts

Verse 1

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

Refrain (repeat above)

Verse 2

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

Refrain (repeat above)

Verse 3

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

Scene 1: Funeral of Amenhotep III

(The scene presents the funeral of Akhnaten’s father, Amenhotep III. As the starting point of the opera, it represents the historical moment immediately before the «Amarna period» or the reign of Akhnaten and depicts the society in which the reforms of Akhnaten, reforms which appeared so extreme that they can be called revolutionary, took place. The action of the scene centers on the funeral rites of the New Empire of the 18th Dynasty. It is dominated by the Amon priests and appears as ritual of extraordinary traditional character drawn from The Egyptian Book of the Dead. The funeral cortege enters downstage led by two drummers and followed by a small body of Amon priests who in turn are led by Aye, father of Nefertiti, advisor to the recently dead pharaoh, and the Pharaoh to be)

FUNERAL CHORUS (Text sung in Egyptian by the from Budge, The Egyptian Book of the Dead)

Ankh ankh, en mitak Yewk er heh en heh Aha en heh (As the music goes to the cellos alone, the deceased Amenhotep III enters behind the procession. He appears to be headless and is holding his head in his hands. The music for orchestra, small chorus and solo bass voice (Aye) resumes)

SMALL CHORUS (Text sung in Egyptian by from Budge, The Egyptian Book of the Dead)

Ya inen makhent en Ra, rud akit em mehit em khentik er she nerserser em netcher khert (During the next section for orchestra alone, the funeral cortege, Amon priests and Amenhotep III, moves upstage. Akhnaten and the people of Thebes join Aye downstage. In the final section of the funeral, the people of Thebes and Aye join the orchestra in a last salute to the departing Amenhotep III)

AY, CHORUS

Ya, inen makhent en Ra, etc. Ankh ankh, en mitak, etc.

Scene2: The Coronation of Akhnaten

(The short opening to the second scene show Akhnaten alone as the Scribe, Aye and the people of Thebes leave and the funeral cortege departs. Akhnaten’s attendants appear and, by changing his costume, prepare him to receive the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. There is not singing or narration in this section. The next section for orchestra accompanies the appearance of the Scribe, the Amon High Priest, Aye and Horemhab as well as the people of Thebes. Akhnaten has remained with his attendants. The following section includes the trio of Amon High Priest, Aye and Horemhab with orchestra. The dramatic intent of this moment is to prepare Akhnaten to receive the double crown)

AMON HIGH PRIEST, HOREMHAB AYE, LARGE CHORUS (Text: Sung in Egyptian by from Budge, An Egyptian Reading Book)

Ye-nedj hrak yemi em hetepu Neb aut yeb sekhem kha-u Neb wereret ka shuti Nefer seshed ka hedjet Mertu netcheru maanek Sekhi men em weptek (The opening music of the scene recurs as the Scribe announces the names and titles of the new Pharaoh. During this speech Akhnaten receives the double crown from the Amon High Priest assisted by Aye and Horemhab)

SCRIBE (Text Recited from a list of Akhnaten’s titles)

Live the Horus, Strong-Bull-Appearing-as-Justice; He of the Two Ladies, Establishing Laws and causing the Two-Lands to be Pacified; Horus of Gold, Mighty-of-Arm-when-He-Smites-the-Asiatics; 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 Godesses, 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, Living-for-Ever-and-Ever, Beloved of Amon-Ra, Lord of Heaven.

AMON HIGH PRIEST, HOREMHAB AYE, LARGE CHORUS (Text: Sung in Egyptian by from Budge, An Egyptian Reading Book)

Ye-nedj hrak yemi em hetepu Neb aut yeb sekhem kha-u Neb wereret ka shuti Nefer seshed ka hedjet Mertu netcheru maanek Sekhi men em weptek

Scene 3: The Window of Appearances

(A windowed balcony of the palace used for state appearances. The music from the opening of the coronation scene is heard again, played on large bells and providing a musical and dramatic transition to what follows. Akhnaten is joined by Nefertiti and his mother, Queen Tye. They approach the Window of Appearances and sing, first a solo, then duet, then trio through the window. It is a hymn of acceptance and resolve and, in spirit, announces a new era)

AKHNATEN: (Text sung in Egyptian from Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians)

Tut wu-a yeri enti Wa-a wa-u yeri wenenet Perer en rem em yertif Kheper netcheru tep ref

AKHENATEN, TYE

Yeri semu se-ankh menmen Khet en ankhu en henmemet Yeri ankh-ti remu en yetru Apdu genekh pet

AKHNATEN, NEFERTITI:

Redi nefu en enti em suhet Se-ankh apnentu yeri ankhti khenus Djedfet puyu mitet yeri Yeri kherti penu em babasen

TYE, AKHNATEN, NEFERTITI: Se-ankh puyu em khet nebet Hrak yeri Enen er a-u

(The music continues with full orchestra. Tye and Nefertiti leave Akhnaten alone. He stands gazing at the distant funeral cortege floating on barques across a mythical river to the Land of the Dead)

◊   Akhnaten ↓ Act II
Year 5 to 15. Thebes and Akhnaten

ACT II    –   Years 5 To 15 Thebes and Akhetaten)

Scene 1:The Temple

(The scene begins with a short introduction for orchestra. We then see an Amon temple and a small group of Amon priests led by their High Priest. They sing a hymn to Amon)

AMON HIGH PRIEST, AMON PRIESTS (Text sung in Egyptian from Gardiner, «The So-Called Tomb of Queen Tye», Journal of Egyptian Archaeology)

Amen men khet nebet Ya-u-nek em em djed Sen er ayu Nek henu nek en En wered ek imen (The following orchestral section introduces Akhnaten, Queen Tye and a small party of followers, Aten priests, soldiers, etc, of the new order. After surrounding the temple, Atenists, led by Akhnaten and Queen Tye, attack it. Here we see Akhnaten for the first time as the rebel he was, venting his hatred if the old order on the Amon temple. The attack is complete, and the roof of the temple is pulled off as the light of «the Aten» pours into what once was the «holy of holies.» The attackers sing a vocalise, no words being necessary here)

Scene 2: Akhnaten and Nefertiti

(An orchestral transition prepares the scene, which is devoted entirely to a duet between Akhnaten and Nefertiti. With the introduction of the solo trombone, the Scribe begins reciting a poem. The first time we hear the poem it is as if addressed to a god. With the entrance of the strings, the poem is heard again, this time spoken as an exchange between two lovers. During this second reading, Akhnaten and Nefertiti appear. There follows the duet between the two, not alone together. The vocal text is the same poem sung in Egyptian. At the end of the duet the music returns to the orchestra alone. There is a brief pause, then Akhnaten and Nefertiti resume singing while behind them is seen the funeral cortege in a later stage of its journey, this time ascending on wings of large birds to the heavenly land of Ra)

SCRIBE (Text recited and then sung in Egyptian, a love poem found in a royal mummy of the Armarna period, from Journal of Egyptian Archæology, translated by Sir Alan Gardiner)

Sesenet neftu nedjem Per em rek Peteri nefruk em menet Ta-i nehet sedj emi Kheruk nedjem en mehit Renpu ha-i em ankh en mertuk. Di-ek eni awik kher ka-ek Shesepi su ankhi yemef I ashek reni er heh Ben hehif em rek

Scene 3: The City

(The Scribe speaks the first part of this scene alone, without musical accompaniment. His speech is taken from the boundary markers or stelæ of Akhnaten’s new city, Akhetaten, The Horizon of the Aten. During his speech, Akhetaten – a new city of light and open spaces that represents architecturally and visually the spirit of the epoch of Akhnaten – appears behind him)

SCRIBE

(Text recited from the boundary markers found in the valley at Tel-el-Amarna, in Breasted, A History of Egypt)

Stela 1

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.

Stela 2

I will make the City of the Horizon of the Aten 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 westward or eastward, I will not say, `I will abandon this City of the Horizon.

Dance

(The dance, which immediately follows the brass fanfare, contrasts with the heavy traditional ritual of the temple scene which opened this act. Musicians, triangle, wood block, tambourine, appear on stage with dancers, as well as Akhnaten and principal members of his entourage, in a dance that marks the celebration and inauguration of the city of Akhetaten)

Scene 4: Hymn

(The music that follows the dance is taken from the orchestral introduction to the coronation scene and serves as preparation for Akhnaten’s «Hymn to the Aten». At its conclusion, Akhnaten is left alone. The «Hymn to the Aten» is a central moment of the opera. In it, Akhnaten espouses in his own words the inspiration for his religious and social reforms. The Hymn is sung in the language of the audience)

Hymn to the Aten AKHNATEN

(Text sung in English from Winton Thomas’s English translation published in Documents from Old Testament Times) 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 art fair, great, dazzling, High above every land 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. (At the close of the Hymn, Akhnaten leaves the stage deserted, and the act ends with distant voices singing)

CHORUS (Text sung in Hebrew by Offstage Chorus, from Psalm 104, Hebrew Bible, Masoretic text)

Ma rab-bu ma-a-se-kha ha-shem Ku-lam be-khokh-ma a-sita Ma-le-a ha-a-rets kin-ya-ne-kha O-te or ka-sal-ma No-te sha-ma-yim ka-yi-ri-a Ta-shet kho-shekh vi-hi lay-la Bo tir-mis kol khay-to ya-ar (repeat first three lines)

◊   Akhnaten ↓ Act III

(Year 17 And The Present – Akhetaten)

Scene 1: The Family

(The stage is divided, one side showing a room in the palace in which can be seen Akhnaten, Nefertiti and their Six Daughters. Outside the palace, on the other side of the stage, are the people of Egypt, soldiers, outlawed priests of Amon and the Scribe. The opening of the scene depicts Akhnaten and his family in a moment of intimacy, oblivious to the crowd outside. As they sing to each other a sweet, wordless song, it is apparent that in their closeness they have become isolated from the outside world. The focus shifts to the people outside the palace. The Scribe, drawing on tablets known as the Amarna Letters that were sent to Akhnaten from Syrian princes, begins to incite the crowd, which presses toward the palace and becomes increasingly restless)

SCRIBE (Text recited from the Amarna Letters as cited in Mercer, The Tel-el-Amarna Tablets)

Letter No. 1: 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 rediculed me like the governors, my brethren, and dispised me.

Letter No. 2: 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; every one 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.

Letter No. 3: Verily, they 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 lands for themselves. Creatures of the king of Mittani are they, and of the king of Babylon and of the king of the Hittites.

Letter No. 4 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 not help for us. For twenty 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 scene shifts back to the palace. This time Akhnaten is alone with his two eldest daughters. They continue to sing, appearing more withdrawn and isolated from the events outside)

Scene 2: Attack and Fall (Horemhab, Aye and the Amon High Priest push to the front of the crowd and also begin to rouse the people, Large Chorus. The principals and chorus sing a text taken from the Amarna Letters. Soon the palace is surrounded. Finally, the mob bursts through the palace doors and windows in a wave of shouts, overwhelming Akhnaten and his remaining family and carying them off)

HIGH PRIEST, AY HOREMHAB, CHORUS (Text sung in Akkadian from Mercer, The Tel-el-Amarna Tablets) Lim-lik-mi sha-ri a-na ma-ti-shu Khal-kat mat sha-ri Ga-ba-sha Tsa-na-ta-ni nu-kur-tu a-na ya-shi A-di ma-ta-ti She-eri Gin-Ti-kir-mil shal-nu a-na gab-bi kha-zi-a-nu-ti u nu-kur-tu a-na ya-shi. Ip-sha-ti e-nu-ma a-mel a-mi-ri u-l a-mar i-na sha-ri be-li-ya ki nu-kur-tu a-na mukh-khi-ya shak-na-ti E-nu-ma e-lip-pa i-na lib-bi tam-ti kat sha-ri dan-na-tu Ti-lik-ki Nakh-ri-ma u kapa-si u i-nan-na a-la-ni sha-ri Ti-li-ki-u Kha-bi-ru Ya-nu-mi ish-ten kha-zi-a-nu a-na sha-ri be-li-ya khal-ku gab-bu

Scene 3: The Ruins (In the silence at the close of the last scene, the Scribe appears out of the chaos to announce the end of Akhnaten’s reign)

SCRIBE (Text recited from Aye’s tomb)

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 next section for orchestra and the Scribe is a reprise, in shortened form, of the opening Prelude. It serves as a transition to the present day and is divided as follows: The Scribe describes the rebuilding of the Amon temples after the fall of Akhnaten)

SCRIBE (Text recited from Tutankhamen’s tomb)

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 has been done previously. He fashioned his father Amon upon thirteen carrying poles, his holy image being of fine gold, lapis lazuli, and every august costly stone, whereas the majesty of this august god had been upon eleven 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! Prosperity! Health! has built their barques upon the river of new cedar from the terraces. They make the river shine.

(The orchestral music becomes very full and no action is indicated. Finally the city of Akhetaten appears as it exists in the present: a ruined city, recently excavated, the walls barely three feet high at most. Several groups of tourists wander through the ruins taking photos, exploring, looking about. The last group of tourists is led by the Scribe, now appearing as a twentieth-century tour guide describing to the group what they are seeing)

SCRIBE (Text recited from Frommer’s Guide to Egypt, and Fodor’s Egypt)

To reach Tel-el-Amarna, drive eight miles south of Mallawi 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 of the Akhnaten period. Tablets in cuneiform writing, which contain correspondence between Egypt and Syria, were found here and are now the 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 there at least one-half hour before the 6:00 AM crossing. The ferry does a brisk business and you will need every available second for sight seeing. 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 their floor plans. In addition to the tombs and ruins of the city, there are several stelæ scattered around the plain which mark the limits of the land belonging to the city, most of them are too widely scattered to visit and are also in bad condition.

Scene 4: Epilogue

(All the tourists have left. The ruined city is empty. The ghosts of Akhnaten and the other principals appear moving about their now-dead city. Singing parts are taken by Akhnaten, Nefertiti and Queen Tye, but they sing no words. At first they seem not to know that they and their city all are dead and now a part of the past. They become aware of the funeral cortege of Akhnaten’s father (Amenhotep III) moving across the background. They form a procession of their own and, as the opera ends, can be seen moving off toward the first funeral group still on its journey to the heavenly land of Ra)

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