A Composer’s Notes: Philip Glass and the Making of an Opera

Director: Michael Blackwood

Institute History

  • 1987 Sundance Film Festival


Philip Glass, whose roots are in New York’s musical avant-garde, has grown into an artist of international stature. The Times (London) has called him “the most individual force in American opera since Virgil Thomson.” A Composer’s Notes takes the form of an interior monologue as Glass allows us an intimate look at the preliminary thinking, writing and rehearsing of his third opera, Akhnaten. Based on the life of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh who some believe was the first monotheist, Akhnaten completes Glass’ trilogy on the lives of remarkable men.

Two productions of the opera premiered almost simultaneously: the Stuttgart Opera in West Germany, directed by Achim Freyer, and the Houston Grand Opera in Texas, directed by David Freeman. Their dramatically different interpretations of Glass’ material make for a fascinating contrast in American and European theatrical values.

— Karen Cooper

Screening Details


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