Einstein on the Beach – Composed Philip Glass / Directed Robert Wilson (1976)


Einstein on the Beach is an opera in four acts (framed and connected by five ‘knee plays’ or intermezzos), composed by Philip Glass and directed by theatrical producer Robert Wilson. The opera eschews traditional narrative in favor of a formalist approach based on structured spaces laid out by Wilson in a series of storyboards. The music was written ‘in the spring, summer and fall of 1975’. Glass recounts the collaborative process: ‘I put [Wilson’s notebook of sketches] on the piano and composed each section like a portrait of the drawing before me. The score was begun in the spring of 1975 and completed by the following November, and those drawings were before me all the time.’ The premiere took place on July 25, 1976, at the Avignon Festival in France. The opera contains writings by Christopher Knowles, Samuel M. Johnson and Lucinda Childs. It is Glass’s first and longest opera score, taking approximately five hours in full performance without intermission; given the length, the audience is permitted to enter and leave as desired. … From the beginning of Glass and Wilson’s collaboration, they insisted on portraying the icon purely as a historical figure, in the absence of a storyline attached to his image. While they did incorporate symbols from Einstein’s life within the opera’s scenery, characters, and music, they intentionally chose not to give the opera a specific plot. This is in accord with Wilson’s formalist approach, which he asserts creates more truth on stage than naturalist theater. Wilson structured Einstein on the Beach as a repeating sequence of three different kinds of space. Between major acts are shorter entr’actes known as ‘knee plays,’ a signature technique that Wilson has applied throughout his oeuvre. Propelling idea of ‘non-plot’ within Einstein on the Beach, its libretto employs solfège syllables, numbers, and short sections of poetry. …”
Wikipedia
The Method and Madness of ‘Einstein on the Beach’
iTunes
NPR: The Minds Behind ‘Einstein On The Beach’ Talk Shop (Video)
UbuWeb: Einstein on the Beach: The Changing Image of Opera (Video)
THE EARTH MOVES. A documentary about Einstein on the Beach. (Video)
YouTube: Einstein on the Beach 4:36:23
YouTube: Philip Glass Ensemble “Train/Spaceship” part 1, “Train/Spaceship” part 2

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