Composer Philip Glass and director Robert Wilson's Einstein on the Beach, widely credited as one of the greatest artistic achievements of the 20th century, launched its creators to international success when it was first produced in Avignon, France, in 1976, with subsequent performances in Europe and in New York at the Metropolitan Opera. It is still recognized as one of their greatest masterpieces. Now, nearly four decades after it was first performed and 20 years since its last production, Einstein on the Beach returns to New York this weekend. With an opening-night performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) tonight, the opera launches an eight-performance residency at BAM that will run through September 23. Watch the official trailer below.
The performances are part of a major international tour of Einstein on the Beach that includes the first performances in the UK and the first North American presentations ever held outside of New York City, having begun with previews in Ann Arbor in January and including performances in Montpellier, Italy, Toronto, and London this past spring. Following the Brooklyn performances, Einstein on the Beach will head to Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall in October and the Teatro del Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City in November; the tour continues in 2013 with performances at Het Muziektheater in Amsterdam in January and the Hong Kong Arts Festival in March. For additional information and ticket links, go to nonesuch.com/on-tour.
To coincide with the international tour and Glass’s 75th birthday, Nonesuch Records reissued its 1993 recording of Einstein on the Beach, which the Washington Post called a "more complete than the first recording and superior in both performance and sound." To pick up a copy of the three-CD set, head to the Nonesuch Store now.
Einstein on the Beach breaks all of the rules of conventional opera. Instead of a traditional orchestral arrangement, Glass chose to compose the work for the synthesizers, woodwinds and voices of the Philip Glass Ensemble. Non-narrative in form, the work uses a series of powerful recurrent images as its main storytelling device shown in juxtaposition with abstract dance sequences created by American choreographer Lucinda Childs. It is structured in four interconnected acts and divided by a series of short scenes or "knee plays." Taking place over five hours, there are no traditional intermissions. Instead, the audience is invited to wander in and out at liberty during the performance.
Einstein on the Beach was revolutionary when first performed and is now considered one of the most remarkable performance works of our time. The New York Times art critic and producer John Rockwell has said of seeing Einstein on the Beach for the first time: “Einstein was like nothing I had ever encountered. For me, its very elusiveness radiated richly, like some dark star whose effects we can only feel. The synergy of words and music seemed ideal.” He continues, "Einstein on the Beach, perhaps, like Einstein himself, transcended time. It's not (just) an artifact of its era, it's timeless ... Einstein must be seen and re-seen, encountered and savored ... an experience to cherish for a lifetime."