When the curtain rose on Philip Glass’s opera “Akhnaten” last month, Sean Gandini was sitting twenty feet above the Metropolitan Opera’s stage, dressed as a walrus-headed god. Along with a cast that included the countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, Gandini was about to engage in a complex ritual: resurrecting the titular pharaoh (a sun-worshipping iconoclast best known as Tutankhamun’s father) through several hours of minimalist music and high-intensity juggling.
“Some people who aren’t used to seeing juggling think that there’s a lot of it in the show,” Gandini said two weeks later, in a bar near the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center, in Greenwich Village. “There is a lot—there are twelve jugglers—but it’s quite pared down, quite un-tricksy.” Gandini, who has curly gray hair and a garrulous enthusiasm, grew up in Havana, where his Irish mother and his Italian father—Communists who met in an anarchist club in Geneva—moved when he was four. “It was the late sixties,” he said. “They thought that there was this better world.” In elementary school, a teacher asked Gandini’s class to write about what they wanted to be when they grew up. “People were, like, ‘I want to be the first Soviet astronaut,’ ” he said. “I wrote that I wanted to be a clown and make everybody laugh.”…
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