A look at Philip Glass’s epic Portrait Trilogy; the minimalist’s answer to the Ring Cycle.

I t might not quite measure up to Stockhausen’s 29-hour Licht cycle, but Philip Glass’s three ‘portrait’ operas – Einstein on the Beach , Satyagraha and Akhnaten – are in some ways the 20th-century equivalent of Wagner’s Ring . Each opera in itself is a significant challenge so it’s a brave director who’d tackle all three. But that’s just what Leigh Warren intends to do in Adelaide this August – and as big ideas go, it’s a world premiere.

Warren, a choreographer as well as a director, has staged each opera previously, but this will be the first time he’s run them as a cycle. “It’s a monumental challenge, because it’s eight hours of material,” he says,“but on the other hand they are linked and are perfect vehicles for contemporary interpretation. The idea of the portrait doesn’t mean that you have to follow a strict narrative. It’s like when you see a portrait in a gallery – it’s not an exact likeness, but it gives...

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