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IU Opera Theater taking 'Akhnaten' production to Indianapolis Opera in their first collaboration

WHAT: "Akhnaten" by Philip Glass
BLOOMINGTON: 8 p.m. Feb. 22 and 23 and March 1 and 2; Musical Arts Center, 101 N. Jordan Ave.
INDIANAPOLIS: 8 p.m. March 8 and 9; Clowes Memorial Hall, 4601 Sunset Ave.
TICKETS: Purchase tickets for Bloomington performances at the Musical Arts Center box office from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, by phone at 812-855-7433 or online through IU Opera. A discounted price is available for all students. Purchase tickets for Indianapolis performances through Indianapolis Opera.
VIDEO STREAMING: Feb. 22 and 23 only. Featuring live blogging by Jacobs School of Music musicology students.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feb. 6, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Marking their first-ever collaboration, Indiana University Opera Theater -- housed in the Jacobs School of Music -- will present its production of Philip Glass' "Akhnaten" as part of the Indianapolis Opera season March 8 and 9 at Clowes Memorial Hall on the Butler University campus in Indianapolis.

Akhnaten 2013
A rendering of costume designs for IU Opera's "Akhnaten" from Linda Pisano, head of the Costume Design Program at the IU Department of Theatre and Drama.
Print-Quality Photo

The presentation will follow a series of IU Opera Theater performances in Bloomington's Musical Arts Center at 8 p.m. Feb. 22 and 23 and March 1 and 2. "Akhnaten" will be the first Glass production either entity has performed.

Part of the mission of the Jacobs School is to bring cultural performances to different areas of the state, allowing a more diverse audience to enjoy them.

"We are mounting the production in Bloomington and then taking it on the road -- with our same cast and artistic team -- to Indianapolis," said Tim Stebbins, IU Opera executive director of production. "The Jacobs School and Indianapolis Opera have discussed such a partnership for several years, and we are thrilled that it has finally come to fruition. It is certainly a win-win situation for us, as well as for the citizens of Indiana."

The opera boasts an artistic team carefully selected for this production, including three guest artists -- stage director Candace Evans, set designer Douglas Fitch and lighting designer Todd Hensley. IU faculty members Arthur Fagen, Jacobs professor of orchestral conducting, and Linda Pisano, head of the Costume Design Program at the IU Department of Theatre and Drama, round out the group.

"We take great care to match the artistic team to each production," Stebbins said. "What we're doing here is right in step with New York and Chicago and other professional markets. We have the same people coming here to work with us. These are professional productions with students singing the roles."

Evans said that her approach to this production -- her first experience working with the music of Glass -- has been inspired by the parallels between the reign of Akhnaten and the current unrest in Egypt.

"I will be incorporating video of modern Egypt into the opera, using images of the current conflict," Evans said. "By incorporating this visual with onstage graffiti art, I hope to create an 'entry' into the world of ancient Egypt. While most of the opera takes place during ancient times, the idea of opera as 'history lesson' doesn't appeal to me. My vision is that of opera as 'human lesson.' We're always just people, regardless of era, wardrobe, faith or ruler."

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.

The Feb. 22 and 23 performances of "Akhnaten" will be live-streamed via the IU Music Live site.

A free public discussion about the opera will be presented at noon Friday, Feb. 22, in Ford-Crawford Hall in Bloomington. "Akhnaten" librettist Shalom Goldman, research professor of religion at Duke University, will be on the panel, as well as leading the Feb. 23 pre-performance "Opera Insights" talk at 7 p.m. The panel will also include Evans, Fagen and Egyptologist Steve Vinson, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the IU Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, in an in-depth overview of the creation of IU Opera's latest production.