On Sunday 6 March over 100 non-professional performers joined professional artists from ENO to perform Millions of Years, a site-specific music theatre piece which took place in the architectural splendour of The British Museum’s Great Court.
This large scale community project was inspired by Phelim McDermott’s production of Philip Glass’s opera Akhnaten, which opened at the London Coliseum on Friday 4 March.
The piece explored time, from the ancient past to today and beyond. It considered the traces left behind by past societies, what we value today, and what we want to leave behind for future generations.
Over a series of weekly workshops throughout January and February, participants created a series of moving tableaux, learning extracts from the opera and generating original material in response to the opera and the British Museum collection.
The group of non-professional performers was made up of a mixed age adult community chorus, including members of Streetwise Opera‘s Explore group, a group of young performers aged 13-18 recruited through our partnership with Brixton Youth Theatre, Raw Material and Lambeth Music Hub, and a team of non-professional jugglers recruited through our partnership with Gandini.
A group of young designer/makers aged 14-16 from the Sorrell Foundation’s National Art & Design Saturday Club at London Metropolitan University created headdresses for the cast inspired by images of animal gods found on stelae from the period at the Petrie Museum and British Museum.
Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, who is singing the title role in ENO’s production of Akhnaten, also took part in the project alongside an ensemble of professional musicians conducted by Lee Reynolds.
The project was kindly supported by Shaftesbury PLC and Sue Sheridan OBE.