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Jacobs School of Music

Alain Barker
Jacobs School of Music

Last modified: Thursday, June 28, 2012

IU Opera Theater, Indianapolis Opera partner in presentation of Philip Glass' 'Akhnaten'

June 28, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In a groundbreaking strategic partnership, the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, home of IU Opera Theater, will join Indianapolis Opera to present two performances of iconic American composer Philip Glass' seminal opera "Akhnaten" on March 8 and 9, 2013, at Clowes Memorial Hall on the Butler University campus.


Indiana University Opera Theater's production of "Akhnaten" by Philip Glass will be performed in Bloomington and at Indianapolis Opera in spring 2013.

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The presentation will follow a series of IU Opera Theater performances in Bloomington's Musical Arts Center (Feb. 22 and 23 and March 1 and 2). "Akhnaten" will be the first Glass production either entity has performed.

"It's an honor for IU Opera Theater to be given an opportunity to share our first-ever Philip Glass production within the artistic season of Indianapolis," said Gwyn Richards, dean of the Jacobs School. "Our faculty, students and creative team are excited to bring this work to Clowes Hall, and to work with its long-admired staff. It seems to be the right project at the right time, and we thank John Pickett for the chance to appear within the Indianapolis Opera season."

"For several years, Indianapolis Opera and the IU Jacobs School of Music have discussed the creation of a new strategic partnership," said John Pickett, Indianapolis Opera executive director. "The collaboration of the state's only fully professional opera company with IU Opera Theater -- arguably the best opera education program in the world -- only makes sense. Performed at Clowes Memorial Hall, we will experience the work of a key cultural partner and some of the next great voices in opera."

"The relationship that has developed between Indianapolis Opera and Indiana University Opera Theater is a natural one that serves both organizations, as well as the citizens of Indiana," said Tim Stebbins, director of production at IU Opera and Ballet Theater. "By offering performances of 'Akhnaten' in Bloomington and Indianapolis (in venues designed by the same architect), we offer regional audiences a unique opportunity to experience the opera stars of tomorrow in a groundbreaking production that will have the artistic and technical values found in any professional opera house in the country."

An opera in three acts, "Akhnaten" is based on the life and religious convictions of the Egyptian pharaoh by the same name. According to the composer, the work is the culmination of his two other biographical operas, "Einstein on the Beach" and "Satyagraha," about Mohandas Gandhi. These three people -- Akhnaten, Einstein and Gandhi -- were all driven by an inner vision that altered the age in which they lived, in particular Akhnaten in religion, Einstein in science and Gandhi in politics.

"Akhnaten" had its world premiere on March 24, 1984, at the Stuttgart State Opera, under the German title "Echnaton." English counter-tenor Paul Esswood sang the title role, and German director Achim Freyer provided abstract staging. The American premiere took place Oct. 12, 1984, at the Houston Grand Opera, where Glass' opera "The Making of the Representative for Planet 8" also premiered.

IU Opera Theater
For more than six decades, the glory of opera has been celebrated year round at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, with at least six productions staged annually in the Musical Arts Center.

IU Opera Theater productions are sung by students who have won international critical acclaim. While at Indiana University, these young artists are taught by a world-renowned faculty that famed soprano Beverly Sills once called "absolutely mind-boggling."

Since its beginning in 1948, IU Opera has built its reputation on adventurous programming of the highest quality, including many world, American and collegiate premieres, combined with a careful selection of acknowledged masterpieces. In 1981, it became the first -- and thus far, the only -- university opera company to appear on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera.

Indianapolis Opera
Founded in 1975, Indianapolis Opera is the only professional opera company in the state. Early productions were staged at a variety of locations but, in recent years, the company's productions have been performed at Clowes Memorial Hall. In addition, the company now has a permanent home in the Basile Opera Center at 40th and Pennsylvania streets.

John Pickett joined the company in 1990 in charge of development and marketing. He rejoined the company in 1997 as executive director. James Caraher was appointed music director in 1981 and artistic director in 1995.

The company's educational outreach program, the Indianapolis Opera Ensemble, was created in 1993. The company's nationally acclaimed "Music! Words! Opera!," a school partnership program with an interdisciplinary curriculum, was initiated in 1996.