"Impossible, you say?"
March 2, 2011 9:32 AM   Subscribe

"The day with its cares and perplexities is ended and the night is now upon us. The night should be a time of peace and tranquility; a time to relax and be calm. We have need of a soothing story to banish the disturbing thoughts of the day, to set at rest our troubled minds, and put at ease our ruffled spirits. And what sort of story shall we hear? Ah, it will be a familiar story. A story that is so very, very old, and yet it is so new. It is the old, old story of …" the 2012/13 touring production of Einstein on the Beach.

Einstein on the Beach is widely regarded as one of the most important operas of our lifetime. It has achieved canonical, even mythic, status, and yet so few people have had the opportunity to see it. After its 1976 debut and a revival in 1984, (reviewed here) the most recent presentation of the opera was in 1992 (though there have been presentations of parts the music since then; in 2007 at Carnegie Hall and a "transcendent" 2009 performance of the Knee Plays in LA.)

For the new production, Philip Glass and Robert Wilson are working with a number of their longtime collaborators, including Lucinda Childs, who will serve as choreographer. All of these artists are now in their `70s. They are committed to passing on the work to a new generation, and so are recruiting younger artists for the creative team and cast. Glass notes that, "[f]or Bob and me, the 2012-13 revival of Einstein on the Beach will be a most significant event, since in all likelihood, this will be the last time that we will be together and able to work on the piece."

Announced Performances (as far as I know, tickets are not yet on sale for any of these)
JANUARY 2012 (Preview): University of Michigan

For those who can't make it to any of these shows, there is "Einstein on the Beach: The Changing Image of Opera," a documentary on the 1984 Brooklyn Academy of Music's production: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3.
posted by williampratt (21 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
The first revival was my introduction. The second revival left me just as disoriented as the first.

Some music critic said that EotB has the surest sign of being a masterpiece: That it still sounds as revolutionary today as it did at its introduction*.

* I'm not convinced myself. But it seemed worth noting.

Great post.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:40 AM on March 2, 2011

I was going to make this post, but then I was reminded of the fact that I had been avoiding the beach.
posted by schmod at 9:41 AM on March 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Somebody made an opera from an obscure Counting Crows song?!
posted by kmz at 9:46 AM on March 2, 2011

I saw the 1984 revival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It remains the most remarkable musical experience of my life. The music by itself is great, but only with Wilson's staging does the opera really exist. I was mesmerized for the entire five hours, especially the last 45 minutes. More than anything, it was the final Bed scene that affected me the most. It's the scene pictured on the 1993 recording - for good reason, as I think that scene more than any other defines the opera. But back then, I'd never particularly liked the music for that section. It seemed irrelevant, and kind of boring. But on stage it was something astonishing. Alone on a darkened stage, accompanied by just organ and soprano voice, the side of the bed became an immense rectangle of light illuminating the audience. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, it tilted and rose until it became vertical. Then it slowly ascended until it disappeared into the fly loft. The whole process took maybe 15 minutes. Even now I am amazed that something so, um, minimal could have such a profound effect. At the end, I felt transcended - a state which was not ruined in the slightest when my friend (who was considerably less enraptured by the experience) leaned over and whispered, "If that goddam thing starts coming back down, I'm going to scream."
posted by williampratt at 9:49 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, man, just reading this FPP made all the hair on my body stand on end.

I may actually have the chance to see this opera? Like, live? In my lifetime?

Hell, I'd actually settle for a quality theater broadcast of one of the performances like the Met does.

Holy shit. Thank you so much for posting. I'm already blocking out time on my calendar 18 months from now to make sure I get to one of the west coast shows.

Still have goosebumps. This is amazing!
posted by hippybear at 9:51 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love the score for this show! I sing it to myself all the time:

1 2 3 4 123 123 1 2 3 4 123 123 1 2 3 4 123 123...

posted by Aquaman at 9:56 AM on March 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Hey this thread would have been a much better place to tell my Philip Glass story.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:17 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]



/actually happy
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:20 AM on March 2, 2011

Hell, I'd actually settle for a quality theater broadcast of one of the performances like the Met does.

Derail-ish, but I'd emphatically be in favor of doing this! I saw a theater broadcast of the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary concert, and was a bit skeptical at first, and mildly peeved about paying $15 for admission to a movie theatre. Now, in hindsight, I'm completely and totally in favor of this practice -- the cinematography was phenomenal, and did a much better job of capturing the energy of the live performance than I would have thought possible. The video was also more or less film-quality, which was a pleasant surprise coming from a one-off digital broadcast -- definitely worth shelling out 15 bucks for.

All in all, it's a great way to bring live performances to a much wider audience at a decent price, especially in areas that can't attract large enough audiences to support a touring production (which I sadly imagine would be most places for a production like EotB).

posted by schmod at 10:21 AM on March 2, 2011

schmod: I also completely support the HD theater broadcasts. I have only been to a couple, but they're great experiences. For the Met, you eventually see the same thing show up on PBS as part of their "Great Performances At The Met" series. But being in the theater, with the big screen and excellent sound system and in the company of like-minded strangers, it transcends simply watching a video of an opera.

Plus, sometimes you end up with something truly transcendent. The broadcast last month of Nixon In China had the video production directed by the man who also directed the show, and it was obvious that it wasn't just anyone calling the shots in the control booth. The entire broadcast made sure to constantly relate back to this being a stage production, but still had a lot of very specific frame constructions for the broadcast audience, and the entire thing felt like it had been filmed with a zillion cameras and then assembled with great care in an editing booth. That it was actually being done LIVE.... only spoke to the real artistic insights of everyone involved in the production, all up and down the line.

Whether this could possibly work with a piece like EotB, I have no idea. But if that's all I could get, that's what I'd leap at.

posted by hippybear at 10:28 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by Your Disapproving Father at 10:39 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

this court of common pleas is now in session
posted by Iridic at 10:39 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Coming exactly nowhere near me in flyover country. Sigh. I guess I'd better think about flying the NY or Berkeley.
posted by immlass at 10:49 AM on March 2, 2011

... yow.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:33 AM on March 2, 2011

This is awesome news! I've wanted to see Einstein on the Beach for years now, and it's great that not only is there a traveling production but that it's coming near me as well!

And I'm also excited to see the encore broadcast of Nixon in China tonight.
posted by pombe at 1:03 PM on March 2, 2011

eeeeee so excited!
(And going to see an encore broadcast of Nixon In China on the 12th, hopefully.)
posted by Theta States at 2:02 PM on March 2, 2011

I was at that concert of the knee plays in LA and it was seriously underwhelming, especially in contrast to the rest of the program (Ben Johnston's gorgeous Amazing Grace quartet and Morton Feldman's sublime Rothko Chapel). Something about it just fell totally flat, maybe because it loses something when it's not hitched to a strong narrative and visuals... Glass' music can acquire an aura of undeniable power in the right setting, but that particular performance was anything but transcendent... it's hard to believe I was at the same concert as the LA Times critic!
posted by speicus at 7:33 PM on March 2, 2011

Just saw the encore broadcast of Nixon in China. It was both my first experience with the Met's HD broadcast in theaters (and everything hippybear said is exactly right) and my first time seeing Nixon in China, about which I knew relatively little, and loved.

Now hoping to make it either to Ann Arbor in January or Toronto in June of next year.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:13 PM on March 2, 2011

Holy shit. Thank you so much for posting.
You're welcome. I'm glad there are people as excited as I was when I heard about it.

Hey this thread would have been a much better place to tell my Philip Glass story.
Wonderful little story. I'll be having a similar story to tell later this year. You wouldn't happen to still have those faxes and be able to post them somewhere, would you?

I was at that concert of the knee plays in LA and it was seriously underwhelming
I can see that, since they are little pieces connecting sections of a much larger work ("knees"), that they'd only get their real power as a whole and in the context of a full performance of the opera. Even the last Knee Play, as wonderful as it is alone, is something quite different coming after 5 hours of the full EotB, especially right after the frenetic Spaceship scene. Still, wish I could have been there.
posted by williampratt at 6:13 AM on March 3, 2011

Wonderful little story. I'll be having a similar story to tell later this year. You wouldn't happen to still have those faxes and be able to post them somewhere, would you?

I'll have to check through our giant pile-o-wedding-shit, which is probably the least organized pile-o-wedding-shit in human history, but if I find it I'll let you know.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:24 AM on March 3, 2011

Just saw excerpts from EOTB's "Knee Plays" in Brooklyn a few months ago, and am so excited that this is happening. I'm moving to Ann Arbor this summer an am thrilled that even though I'm leaving New York I'll still have a chance to see it. DevilsAdvocate, let me know if you come to AA for the show!
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 8:40 AM on March 3, 2011

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