Thursday, October 25, 2012
Philip Glass, Robert Wilson's "Einstein on the Beach" Makes West Coast Debut with Three Sold-Out Berkeley PerformancesComposer 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 receives its West Coast premiere with three sold-out performances at the University of California at Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall presented by Cal Performances this weekend. PBS Newshour marked the occasion with a look at this groundbreaking work and the extensive and unexpected career of its composer, which you can watch below.
The weekend also brings to Berkeley a number of free public events presented in conjunction with the performances, including a conversation with Philip Glass at the Department of Music Composer Colloquium and a talk with choreographer Lucinda Childs at Theater, Dance and Performance Studies, both Friday afternoon; a symposium on the staging of Einstein on Saturday; and a talk with Glass, Childs, and Robert Wilson at Zellerbach Playhouse Sunday afternoon. For additional details, visit calperfs.berkeley.edu.
The Berkeley performances of Einstein on the Beach are part of a major international tour that has included 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, London, and Brooklyn earlier this year. Following this weekend's performances, Einstein on the Beach will head to the Teatro del Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City in November, Het Muziektheater in Amsterdam in January 2013, and the Hong Kong Arts Festival in March. For additional information and ticket links, go to nonesuch.com/on-tour.
The 1993 Nonesuch Records 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," is available as 320 kbps MP3s in the Nonesuch Store.
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 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."
Watch the PBS Newshour piece on Einstein on the Beach and Philip Glass here:
Watch Collage of Sound: Philip Glass Classic Gets Revival on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.