“What do they do when nothing happens,” asked Gertrude Stein, perhaps anticipating Long Beach Opera’s challenge when they decided to present Philip Glass’ 1984 opera Akhnaten.
LBO did a terrific job presenting a difficult piece. The music is sublime, but as theater Akhnaten is about as far from melodramatic grand opera as you can get. It is a series of tableaux in which characters declaim orations (in Akkadian and other familiar Southland languages) and not much else happens.
Akhnaten and five other characters have names, but they have only a notional individuality. There’s only a hint of personal interaction between them. The chorus does more to convey the narrative, and they were the musical heroes of the evening.
The other heroes were Dan Weingarten, Frieder Weiss and the lighting crew who provided digital projections and lighting effects that were, in turn, eerie, animated and soothing. I especially liked how the mob overthrowing Akhnaten was attired in shimmering pixils.