Interviewing Rupert Enticknap about his role in Philip Glass’ “Akhnaten”

We had a little chat with Rupert Enticknap about his role in Philip Glass’ opera “Akhnaten”

We had a little chat with Rupert Enticknap about his role in Philip Glass’ opera “Akhnaten”. Questions came from out @mitotorino* followers on Twitter. (*@MiToTorino Twitter account doesn’t exist anymore)


For a belcanto specialist like you does the minimal music of Glass sound “ancient”?

Rupert Enticknap (RE)

Yes – Glass has created a very strong atmosphere of the ancient! The repetition is very ritualistic and I find some of the large melodic shapes remind me of religious/gregorian chant.


How difficult is this this role compared to traditional Baroque composers like Handel or Rameau?


Technically speaking the difficulty is the vocal repetition often on 1 note or vowel, which is not something that occurs in baroque music. However the aria ‘hymn’ for example is very similar to a slow aria by Handel, as both styles require to sing with great bel canto line and phrasing.

In recent years we have seen several productions of this Opera. It possible that some day Akhenaton will have the same popularity of … let’s say Aida


Yes, I believe an opera such as Akhnaten would definitely appeal to audiences who favour ‘grand’ opera, with large choruses and big epic structures telling a story of rise and fall. The music of the opera also is very accessible in that it doesn’t require audiences to ‘understand’ complex atonal harmonies, allowing them to easily adapt to the ‘sound world’ of the story being told.


Sometimes you dive into the contemporary repertoire (such as Max Richter’s SUM). As a countertenor do you feel at ease with the new music? The differences are really big!


I love singing new music! What we forget is that until 100 years ago, musicians were always playing ‘contemporary music’! New music is very important for continuing the history of opera and it is also expanding the repertoire for countertenors. The differences stylistically can be big, and can create challenges, but I approach every repertoire in the same way: bel canto.


As a performer, how does one go about preparing for a major operatic role such as Glass’ Akhnaten?


This part required a lot of studying of the score’s structure and how one can bring shape and meaning to the many repeated motifs and monosyllabic sections. For this I also needed to really understand the context of the story and as much about the figure of Akhnaten in order to establish a sense of character in a concert performance. 

13 settembre 2015, Auditorium Lingotto di Torino “MiTo Torino”

Programma di sala dell’esecuzione milanese, Piccolo Teatro Strehler, 15 settembre 2015