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Classical Music

People Are Talking [and Video Booth]: Einstein on the Beach at Power Center

Posted: 1/20/12 -- 12:00 am

92

avatar by The UMS Lobby

Photo: Helga Davis and Kate Moran perform in Einstein on the Beach in Ann Arbor. Photo by Lucie Jansch.

Tell us what you thought! This is the place to comment on the performance and talk to other people about what you saw and heard. Don’t forget to click the option to be notified when new comments are posted.

A round-up of all Lobby Einstein on the Beach coverage is here.

From Friday night’s video booth:

Two attendees share their excitement prior to the performance:

Paul Sinclair had some realizations due to Einstein:

Ellen, a part of a group visiting with Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, on how her experience of Einstein has changed since she last saw it at BAM:

Two University of Michigan freshmen share their experience of Einstein after the performance:

From Saturday night’s video booth:

“A once in a lifetime event”

“We brought pillows to Einstein on the Beach because…”

“I think this is one of Philip Glass’s best operas about Einstein.”

“A fiendishly difficult piece to perform…”

From Sunday’s video booth:

Second-time attendee:


Opera buff:

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  • avatar

    People are talking — across the country! We won’t see the opera til Sunday’s performance, but just sending links to friends from UMS Lobby resulted in this message this evening from a friend on the East Coast: “WOW, as we type, my son is doing a presentation and report about Einstein…now he gets to include how Einstein has influenced art, music, theater, philosophy… too!”

    Reply
  • I just got home from the performance and was struck particularly by how modern and au courant it was. I somehow expected it to be as incredible an experience as it was, but also for it to be somehow somewhat dated. It was not, not at all. It was an extraordinary experience, the young actors “owned” it and were fabulous. I feel fortunate to be a member of this community (Ann Arbor and UMS communities) and to have shared in this first of what promises to be a riveting and stimulating winter series. All I can say is “good show to all of you at University Musical Society” you hit it out of the park this year; the bar is very high going into our anniversary year but I know you are up to the task, it just excites me to think about it!! Thank you so much.

    Reply
    • Hi Linda,

      I totally agree about how lucky we are: Bravo UMS!

      I think the openness of the experience that is Einstein helps keep it current. Since the viewer completes the work, the living audience will always make connections to their contemporary life. For me this comes through most vividly when the Asian actor picks up the conch shell, as she does at two points. This connection with the beach and the ocean brings Japan’s tsumami and subsequent nuclear disaster to my mind — a reference obviously not in the mind of Wilson back in 1976, however, maybe he considered that in 2011 when he did the casting.

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      • avatar

        Of course all great works have timeless themes that are relevant to everyone. I actually had the opposite reaction — I expected details to be a bit more updated. Instead, it was solidly (delightfully) 20th century surreal, very Magritte-esque. It’s not a negative criticism at all, though. On the other hand, I feel like there’s so much more to be explored, or at least hinted at, with the way life has changed since 1976.

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        • avatar

          There are those who welcome the “openness” of the work, and there are those who condemned the video as ugly and disgusting. Some people want to see the unblemished grandeur of the Rockies. Others see the aptness of Landau’s reminder that the natural beauties of America are in jeopardy. UGLY and DISGUSTING was intended even though it offends those who wish to ignore what is happening. Who owns Einstein on the Beach — that is the question. Can the Hamburg Symphony recast it in a more contemporary form or are they spoiling it as they portray the spoiling of the Great West?

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    • avatar

      Sunday afternoon’s performance of “Einstein on the Beach” was a dazzler! Opera, fantastic dance, theater, history, philosophy, experiential art, stagecraft extravaganza – all rolled into one spectacular event! What made it all so meaningful were UMS’ incredible per-performance opportunities to explore all these elements: lectures, print and video offerings, seminars, an terrific syllabus from UMS Night School. Conversations keep popping up across the country with friends, music lovers, strangers – anyone who’s been pulled into the Einstein orbit like a magnet, or maybe moths drawn to light beam. The debrief at the next session of Night School with Mark Clague should be a dandy. Kudos to UMS for designing and implementing a great launch to the Renegade series. Can’t wait for the rest of the adventure in the weeks ahead!

      Reply
  • avatar

    Some scenes were like watching and listening to multiple alternate universes, each with their own sense of time. The dances and much of the choral music was ecstatically beautiful. The stamina and precision and mindful slow motion movement (and fast motion music) of the performers was mind boggling.

    Reply
    • Yes! I think, on reflecting over night, that the work is to be approached as one would a ballet. There isn’t necessarily a clear point to point story in ballet, you must just ‘follow’ the dancers. To go on that trip with them leads you to the whole. And as I indicated earlier in my own comments, this seems very much like the happenings of the 60’s, it is also still ‘happening’ now. If you give yourself over to the slow mindful motions and music, as well as the faster portions, you will eventually experience it rather than literally understanding it.

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  • avatar

    Thank you UMS. This isn’t the first and I’m sure it won’t be the last time you’ve brought cutting edge cultural entertainment to A2. You put A2 and UM on the short list of places to be for mind blowing entertainment. Now A2 will be noted for Einstein’s beach. Any ideas for a beach we should rename to honor this event?

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  • avatar

    I just got home from Einstein on the Beach. It was eccentric! I appreciated the parts that had an obvious relationship with Einstein, thought that was really cool. I thought that I’d feel more of a flow throughout the piece after hearing how sporadic the script was, but I remained just as puzzled even at the performance, which only tested my creativity and imagination further! I really liked the main 2 women, their precision and facial expressions and the way they held their bodies awed me. This really stretched my definition of opera.

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  • avatar

    Einstein on the Beach is definitely an experience to which you need to bring your own meaning. For me, I found some meaning in the contrasts. There was contrast between the somberness and humor of the trial scene; a trial is a serious matter, but then we see the stenographers filing their nails, and later, everyone looking into their lunch bags. I also was delighted with the contrast in the second dance, where the bearded man wore all black and seemed to complement the group of dancers in lighter clothing. I also felt that these individual dance scenes brought contrast to the sharp choreography in other scenes. These are just a few examples, but overall, I really enjoyed the fresh artistry of the opera!

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  • avatar

    I am so, so proud of and grateful to UMS for having brought this production to us. It is historic. Offhand I can’t think of anything I’ve ever seen that matches its dimensions or its reach.

    Entrancing is the word that goes with Philip Glass. He is called a minimalist. (He could just as reasonably be called a maximalist: the technique of repeating patterns of notes hundreds of times in a row digs the experience into the listener quite a bit more deeply than the usual reprises. I suppose this is Glass’s answer to our short attention span that takes us from one thing to another in desultory fashion so that we never get very deeply into anything. He makes things stick.)

    At first I approached this work cerebrally, looking for themes and symbols. Then I dropped this and simply responded to the scenes as one might to a painting or a ballet or an operatic scene — except that we were served all of these at the same time.

    But at the end, the allegory was unavoidable: this is The Passion of Albert Einstein. The chorus asks: “What do people want?” Apparently, they don’t really want a genius. They sit in judgment over him; they regard him as a freak; they are enslaved by their daily trivialities (bathing caps) and can’t attend to him; or they worship him from afar in his lofty heights before grinning and walking on. His tragedy is partly that he creates what they can’t handle – atomic energy in this case, and so they must return from an overwhelming new future he opens for them to the oldest song there is, the song of love, which indeed is our solace in a world fraught with risk and transience.

    I don’t expect to see the likes of this work again very soon.

    Reply
  • avatar

    I’m writing this from Dallas, TX, where I am eagerly and avidly following your posted comments re: the Einstein previews this weekend. I’ve been a Wilson-Glass devotee for 30 years and am currently trying to help find a way to bring Einstein here to Dallas, as I’m sure that the artistic underground and performing arts culturati here are ready for it and would eat it up with a spoon.

    Please describe more about how the abstraction of the piece affected you. Did you have to go through an initial period of boredom or confusion before you experienced any sort of transcendent epiphany while experiencing the piece and if so, how long did any boredom or confusion last? Did you feel that there were too many longeurs in the piece where your interest level was too difficult to sustain, or no? Did you experience any kind of transcendent epiphany at all? Did you think that the whole thing was overblown, overhyped, a waste of money-time, etc.?

    Personally, I’m totally psyched by the positive comments thus far, so Let ‘Em Fly, Comrades. Inquiring Minds In Dallas Want To Know. And Thank You Very, Very Much.

    Reply
    • If you get bored listening to Glass, then your not listening. I drove 70+ miles (half in the start of a snow storm) that day to see it and it was more than worth the driving stress. This is another in an increasing list of unforgettable performances UMS brings to Michigan.

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    • avatar

      I did indeed feel tinges of boredom and sleepiness, mostly in the first third of the show. There is certainly plenty to occupy your visual and aural interest, although the slowness of the piece, lack of plot, and repetition did have a lullaby effect (at least it did on me!). Of course, it’s possible that says more about my state of sleep deprivation than it does about the show.

      So at certain times, I was tempted to fall asleep. At other times, I found myself spellbound by the extraordinary beauty of what was happening onstage and how seamlessly the audio and visual melded together and complemented each other. I literally sat there with my mouth hanging open, unable to take my eyes off the stage, not quite sure where to look but fascinated by how the actors and dancers were moving.

      While I didn’t really have an epiphany during the show, I quite enjoyed the emotional and physiological roller coaster ride it took me on. It wasn’t so much a roller coaster as it was a gentle coming and going of the tides, rocking back and forth, lulling me to sleep only to jolt me awake again.

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    • avatar

      I was expecting to feel at least twinges of boredom more often than I did. About the only part where I really started to get restless was during the third … I guess “ballet” is the word, with the dancers circling about, combining and seperating in various combinations. I found myself getting bored the third time this happened. I blame my general tiredness–I’d been up since 5:30am that day (Friday). On the whole, the opera was enthralling, and my only real regret is that I didn’t pay for a more expensive ticket closer to the center of the theater. I was on the extreme right of the balcony and couldn’t see much of the right rear corner of the stage. I know there were things going on there during the trial scenes. Anyway, I loved it. I’ve long been a fan of Glass’ music but this is the first time I’ve ever experienced Mr. Wilson’s work. I was especially fascinated by the one sequence with no actors, just a large rectangle of light slooooooowly tilting from horizontal to vertical and then rising into the flies. The lack of conventional story didn’t bother me as much as I thought it might. In some ways, it was like watching a music video. It was a night I won’t soon forget.

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    • avatar

      I did not intend to comment, but since you are looking for a real description let me be the one honest person on this board.

      If like most people you know this work from the music (some of the best of Glass, only surpassed by the first and last scenes of Satyagraha)you will have no idea of what happens on stage.

      Contrary to what others will tell you this is not non-narrative, not non-linear, not open-ended, not abstract, not meditative, not contemplative, not a piece that present various aspects of Einstein/relativity/the modern condition that is open to varied interpretations by the viewer, and not one that will give you any “epiphany”. It is, as the texts by Mr. Knowles, autistic theater. The images, the words, the numbers, the repetitive gestures, are not open but rigidly connected autistically. The meaning is therefore not open, but closed and opaque to the viewer.

      The dance is neither the best nor worst of modern dance, but it is plunked into the play to serve the purpose of providing something to watch while the real point of the scene takes place. That point in the 1st dance is for a light fixture to slowly move across the stage from left to right. In the 2nd dance a larger light fixture moves slowly across the stage from right to left. Thus the need for the distraction of the dance.

      So, if you like the music stay home and listen to it because any thoughts about Einstein in your mind while listening will be at least as interesting as what happens on stage.

      If however the idea of being moderately bored for 4.5 hours and leaving feeling merely tired is worth being able to say you saw it then I guess think about giving a try.

      (for a relative measure of what “moderately bored” means to me, my favorite composer is Morton Feldman for the “late works”.

      Reply
      • avatar

        tgasloli- Thanks for your candor, I do appreciate it. I’m familiar with this autistic opacity of meaning of much of Wilson’s work, as that is a recurrent critique of his early and middle periods especially. For me, this opacity is only a problem if it serves as an *end* rather than a *means* to some kind of dramaturgical poetry that transcends the willful limitations of closed, opaque meanings; a dramaturgical poiesis however radical, however unforeseen or unanticipated.

        Having listened to the Einstein score for 30 years now, and having seen some of Wilson’s other work in ’85 in Paris, I can relate to all of your observations. Thanks again.

        Reply
  • avatar

    If the fire marshall had showed up they would’ve shut the place down. There was no good reason to keep a sold out audience in the lobby for half an hour. Bad weather is no excuse to treat people like cattle. I expect that from rock show promoters, not the University Musical Society.

    Reply
    • Hi Allen: I think it’s safe to assume that the delay was less a weather issue than a problem on stage with an extremely complex show on opening night. I’m certain that UMS has no motivation to inconvenience patrons without cause. For my part, I enjoyed the delay as it gave me a chance to talk with friends and students and find my center a bit before heading into the 4+ hour theatrical marathon. I never felt unsafe, maybe because the lobby has so many doors. I hope the show wasn’t ruined for you by the circumstances.

      Reply
  • avatar

    Like many, I have benn waiting for this opportunity for many years. We came up from Tennessee to see the Fri & Sat performances. We are all just 9 hours out of the performance so detailed questions about the aesthetic experience, for me at least, will have to wait. So accept these general observations until then. No spoilers, but if you are coming to one of this weekend’s shows, don’t read this until later.

    I am still struck by the Knee Plays, and the first demonstrated the exquisite delivery that Kate Moran and Helga Davis offer. Knee Play 3? The chorus nailed it and brought sonic lives into it that you will not hear on the recordings. The Philip Glass Ensemble, it is hard to believe that 6 or 7 people can produce such a wall of sound. Lisa Bielawa, PGE soprano soloist, was great. Ok, at this point I realize I could go on and on, and I haven’t had coffee yet. Performers did a wonderful job, often with a simple smile or wink that alter the drama, but only if you catch them doing it. Hai-Ting Chin, Ty Boomershine, Jasper Newell, and many more. I will forever associate their names with some of the many aesthetic gifts that they delivered. I have said too much :) 10 hours to go until the next performance!

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  • avatar

    Last night’s performance reminded me of being a kid and hearing my parents talk, knowing it was about something important, but not able to quite understand what or why. Everything in the 4+ hours was clearly deliberate–all the choreography, stage effects, everything. Usually when we see a large group of people being very deliberate about what they do, it means something important, but, last night, what did it all mean? It took a while to get to sleep last night, as it was all still in my head; I think my brain was trying to sort through everything I had seen and make sense of it. Even though it seemed like so many things were abstract, and hard to define, I felt like I was able to connect with the performance, partially since I knew the why there were so many trains and clocks (if you don’t, go read Einstein’s book on his theory of special relativity), and also because I could see, in this opera without a plot, an overall exploration into different ways we perceive time, you know, how sometimes it seems like your watch stops and time pauses in space, and other times it merely seems to slow down, and the rest of the time we don’t really notice it at all. It seemed to me that the opera was largely about exploration into space and time. I still want to ask “what does it all mean?” but maybe that’s not the right question. If it was meant to be a story, it would have had a plot. It didn’t. It was more like a poem, a poem that’s not about rhyme and meter but about the sound of the words, only not just about the sound of the words, but the effect of choreography and colors of music. This means that some people will likely find it inaccessible, but for me, it was understandable enough to appreciate, and I wish I had a ticket to go see it again tonight. Thank you UMS for helping to bring “Einstein on the Beach” to Ann Arbor.

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    • avatar

      I too felt pressure (mostly self-imposed) to analyze the various aspects of the show and walk away with some neat, succinct idea of what it meant. Going to some of the special lectures and interviews that were held beforehand helped provide background as to where Glass and Wilson were coming from, but ultimately I think it’s up to the viewer to take away what they will.

      Part of the beauty of Glass’s music is that it is so emotionally resonant. It’s able to sweep away our conscious thoughts and efforts to analyze the work intellectually, and allows us to connect on a deeper emotional level. I really like how you describe EoB as a poem that celebrates the sound and colors of the words. It’s beautiful not just aesthetically, but somehow emotionally as well.

      Reply
    • avatar

      I went to the discussion at the Michigan theatre with Philip Glass and Robert Wilson last Sunday. They seemed very reluctant to ascribe any particular meaning to their work. My sense is that we should do the same.  My view is similar to yours. I think the Opera is best understood and enjoyed as a piece of performance art with lots of contrapuntal motion, where music, the sound and rhythms of spoken words, the movement and facial expressions of dancers and actors, and the lights and the props all work together  to create patterns and energy that engages our senses and our minds in unexpected ways. The art is in the choices and directions made by the authors and in the beautiful execution and interpretation of the performers. 

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    • avatar

      I went to the discussion with Glass and Wilson at the Michigan Theater as well, and I remember Mr. Wilson saying something to the effect of the action being just theme and variations like the music itself. The lack of a plot didn’t bother me as much as I thought it might. Perhaps this work pushes the definition of “opera” more than just a bit, though I think it’s probably the best description we’re likely to get. There were also aspects of music video, ballet, and performance art to it. I don’t expect to get another chance to see Einstein for many years if at all, but I hope I do eventually get such a chance because I’d love to see it again.

      Reply
  • I was very impressed by all the performers. They all kept the work going. I could see that every detail was planned out. If you watched around you could see that everybody of the persons on stage was doing something to keep my attention. The scenes to which I probably played the most attention was the scene about the “Prematurly air-conditioned supermarket”. The words “the beach” finally hypnotized me to some extent. And then the image of the atomic bomb was also kind of fascinating to watch. I keep thinking about the couple in the last scene: for me they could be the last survivors of a nuclear war. But I also must admit that I sometimes thought that it is too long. Sometimes I expected that we move on to the next scene and then the music started again over and over again. So I needed definately my breaks. It was not a surprise to me that I saw people to fall asleep. All in all it was an interesting experience. For me at had the taste of a drug trip. Something you can do sometimes but not too often.

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    • avatar

      Hi Andreas. You must be the piano performance student from Austria that I met before the performance. I’m glad you (mostly) enjoyed the Opera. Unlike Allen, I enjoyed the delay. I took Ken Fisher’s advice and met someone new and learned about the perspective of a musician who practices 6 hours a day (and is apparently a slacker) compared to some of his fellow students. (sorry to out you). Good luck.

      Reply
  • avatar

    I flew up from Georgia to see Einstein on the Beach on Friday night at the Power Center.   The event itself was very well run, having garage parking available next to the theater was very considerate, particularly during a snow storm.   Delaying the start of the show by 30 minutes in light of the weather conditions was also helpful.

    As for the show itself.   I was very impressed by the musicians, the chorus, the dancers and the props.   It takes some real endurance to perform in those roles for four and a half hours.   I also was amused by the subtle gestures made by performers towards the “fourth wall” (audience).

    I like Philip Glass music and have listened to the album version of Einstein on the Beach numerous times.  One distinction I found between the experiences is that one can listen to Einstein in segments on their headphones, then push stop and pick it up later.     In the live theater one does not get that opportunity of course.     The creators recognize this and allow for the “come and go as you wish” seating policy.

    From my perspective, some sections  of Einstein have an unnecessary exaggerated length.   The dances and knee plays were beautiful and creative with their variation, but they seemed padded.     Not that it should be cut down in any way nor am I suggesting it be retuned to short attention spans.    It was an enjoyable and certainly unique experience to finally to go see this.

    One nitpick – the opening “Knee Play” should have started only after the people in the venue had finished sitting.   I could hardly hear the opening dialogue over the crowd and folks walking down the aisle ways to their seats blocked the view.

    Thanks for hosting this UMS!  

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    • avatar

      I was a little dismayed to find the performance already in progress when I got to my seat as well. Yes, we had been warned that it would start promptly at 7:30, but since many people were there early to better make the original start time of 7pm … well, funnelling all of those people into the theater in only twenty minutes was an unrealistic estimate on their part. I mean, I was right near the base of the stairs when the doors finally opened and I was still unable to get to my balcony seat by 7:30. I’m assuming no such problems were had on Saturday and Sunday. I didn’t miss much, but it was still a little disappointing.

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      • avatar

        I was also disappointed that Knee Play I was pretty much missed on Friday. Luckily this was not the case on Saturday. The tones played for 20 minutes and the moment the text began, the whole hall went silent. The ability to let this piece really draw us in completely changed the experience and the early result, for me, was that Train I was much more intense, chill bumps and all.

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  • avatar

    I liked it but I wasn’t head over heels forit. I took frequent breaks and went to the lobby and also quick walks in the snow…it helped me stay alert. At one point the repetitiveness was making I’ll, we’ll I rode it out and things got better. The part about the air conditioned grocery store and the multicolored bathing caps was neat, I did want to book a Carribean vacation on a cruise ship that hopefully won’t capsize because of a hot dog captain. But we are in capable hands with UMS guiding us to new visions, they rightfully earn the designation Renegade for this performance.
    P.s. spell Chzeck is a menace, Dream On fellow Einsteinians!

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    • avatar

      Quick comment, was anyone else seeing the connection to Laurie Anderson violin and narration and David Byrne and the oversize business suit and briefcase in the Stop Making Sense tour…Your collective genius should point to many other artists in New York influenced by Einstein On the Beach. And last of all I think Einstein would have fallen asleep or walked out half way through…I think he was a big fan of Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse!

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      • avatar

        Considering the piece premiered in ’76, I always felt that Laurie Anderson’s 80’s era deadpan narration-delivery style mirrored Lucinda Childs’ self-same vocal style in the “Prematurely Air-Conditioned Supermarket” speech as well as all of her other spoken text in Einstein.

        A precursor to David Byrne’s Big Suit that he wore in SMS can be seen in photographs of one of the male characters wearing an almost identical suit in Wilson’s Death, Destruction and Detroit which premiered in Berlin in 1979.

        As an aside, Eugene Ionesco once told a French journalist that when he attended rehearsals of his own plays, he considered the play a failure if he *didn’t* fall asleep.

        ;)

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  • avatar

    Just saw the show last night and still reflecting on it and taking it all in. Did anybody else notice the conch shell and think of Lord of the Flies? LotF was published in the wake of WWII and was likely a powerful presence in the post-war mentality that saturates much of Einstein on the Beach. In Lord of the Flies, the conch shell represents reason and civility. I’m hesitant to draw too simple of a parallel between the two works but am interested to see if this was an intentional reference on the part of Wilson and Glass. Thoughts?

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    • avatar

      It’s possible. I hadn’t thought of that connection. It seems a bit more likely to me that it tied in with the general concept of a beach. Since it’s part of the title, they worked it into the opera. Robert: “People are going to expect a beach. It’s in the title. How can we do that?” Phil: “I dunno. Maybe put a big sea shell on the stage somewhere?” Robert: “Perfect! I like it better than that surfing sequence you suggested earlier.” [Note: Any similarity to actual conversation between Robert Wilson and Philip Glass is purely coincidental. Not to mention highly unlikely]

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  • avatar

    I couldn’t handle it. I had a strong negative physical experience. Like I was going insane. Maybe its my autistic tendancys but the repetition over and over and the sounds pounding along with the walking back and forth over and over so slow hurt my mind. I got stuck and couldn’t stay. Sorry.

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  • avatar

    Coming into the performance, I truly didn’t know what to expect. I would watch documentaries online and sneak previews of what to expect, knowing that there really isn’t much to “expect” out of it in terms of a coherent plot line with character development a journey. However, before I was even home, I was calling my friends telling them to look at the YouTube videos as I was bragging to them about how I got to experience this. When I finally got home, I myself opened up my computer, went to YouTube, and tried to relieve the moment I sat down in the Power Center. Like with most theatre performances, once you see the show, every time you see a glimpse of it on TV or through a video, you relate to the video saying to yourself “hey I remember that, that was so cool”. Upon re-watching videos on YouTube, I was in a trance of excitement and joy reminding myself how much of a unique and jaw dropping experience this really was. Of course during the opera, I would occasionally check the time to remind myself how long my legs had been asleep for, but at no point did I want to leave my seat because ever hour, every minute, and every second, I was was fully engaged in even the most subtle of actions on stage awaiting the next moment of suspense. I had almost made it a competition with everyone around me to see who was going to be able to stay throughout the entire performance without taking a break. As the man next to me got up, I whispered to myself “What a wimp” and quickly focused back in on the performance at hand. In hindsight, I am grateful for the opportunity to have seen this opera and experience something truly worthy of a renegade classification.

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  • Going into “Einstein,” I really had no idea what to expect. I had heard a little bit about it and done a “reenactment” in MUSICOL 406. I have to say that i was completely blown away. It was way different than anything I have ever seen, and it is really hard to describe. I was incredibly impressed by the precision of everything. The exact filters on the lights and the exact movements that were made together or intentionally slightly off. The music was very cool in the way that it would build and release tension both rhythmically and harmonically and drove the opera even though there wasn’t a linear plot line. The circular structure of everything left me very satisfied.

    Reply
    • I agree Chris. It’s a bit surprising to me that Glass’s theater music works by this rather traditional “tension and release” mechanism, even though the sonic language is uniquely his own. I’m sure too that the visuals and the movement contributes to this sense of propulsion.

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      • That’s really what surprised me the most. I’m a bit of traditionalist, and before tonight I never really would have refered to anything that I have heard by Glass as “pretty.” Interesting, and repetitive were words that better described it, and while those two were definitely in play last night there were some chorus driven sections that were very chordal. IV-V-I in every inversion possibile while there as a bunch of other visual things going on was really unexpected. It almost sounded like a traditional opera in those moments (other than the sequence lasted 35 min+)

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  • avatar

    I did not feel that I wasted my evening.

    Einstein on the Beach contains amazing bits of art, moving sounds and images, numbers, Minkowski diagrams, interesting-sounding bits of text, and a gigantic light bar that rotates ninety degrees and then disappears upwards. It’s a technical marvel all around, and the musicians, singers, dancers, and stage crew are all to be commended for amazing work.

    That said, taken as a whole I find Einstein on the Beach to be a steaming pile of pretentious, vapid monkey crap.

    Why? As auteuricon said earlier, this work is best appreciated as a “transcendent epiphany”—that is to say, a drug trip. Something devoid of complex thought or feeling. Something far removed from the references and so-called themes that have been slapped onto it: Einstein was brilliant and affected humanity in unexpected ways and it’s horrible that his work led to the weaponization of atomic energy. (This is the same problem with the Qatsi trilogy, except there the massive waste of human talent is less evident.)

    Not that I’m necessarily against references to Einstein in a massive drug trip spectacle. Nor that Glassian drug trips can’t be great works of art. I just hate the artifice that we’re supposed to be learning anything besides the fact that altered neural states can be quite wonderful to experience.

    For those of you looking for more than that, don’t look here.

    Reply
    • Hey Ed: Thanks for the tip about the Minkowsky Diagrams — I’ll have to check that out.

      Although I found the time imagery, references to many of Einstein’s experiments, social dynamics, and comments on civil rights, gender equality, the rule of law, etc. etc. to amount to something I could take away, I definitely agree with you that Einstein on the Beach is pretentious. Wilson and Glass are both enormously ambitious people who set out to become world famous artists and succeeded. They continue to draw sell-out audiences while (certainly in the case of Glass) they are accused by traditionalists of selling out to pop tastes. Interestingly both the musical avant garde and the traditionalists resist them. Glass has never won any sort of award: Pulitzer, Guggenheim, Oscar,… That said, every artist, politician, and I’d argue the historical Einstein, has to have more than a bit of pretension to shout their ideas to the world.

      However, your point is well taken and ultimately, I think, art that works creates debate.

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      • avatar

        Thanks for the thoughtful response. Certainly, the work succeeded at getting me to comment here.

        Sure, pretension is everywhere and unavoidable, and I’ll concede also that it’s often in the eye of the beholder—at least, accusations are.

        I probably sound like a bitter traditionalist myself. In some ways I am perhaps, but I actually liked the music and many of the other aspects of the work. But for me, four and a half hours is just too long to wait for a handful of references. I felt like I came away with less than an hour of insight and experience and three and a half hours of wanting more. The gigantic scope is exactly what made the social commentary feel shallow to me. At that scale, I wanted them to either say something substantially more or just say something less.

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        • Thanks Ed. One thing I admire is that given your frustration that you gave the piece a chance and stuck through the whole event.

          For me, I think I got more than enough from the event to make it worth my time — and I watched all three performances.

          The points of my disappointment were two moments that seemed to pander to expectations about what theatre should be rather than push the envelope and both of these moments were at the end. First was the spaceship climax which is pure spectacle and satisfies our need for some sort of climax, then this atomic bomb explodes. Having been a kid in the 1970s, I can understand the fear of nuclear annihilation, but I found the illusion more stage fantasy than fantastically thought inspiring. The other moment I don’t know quite what to make of is the closing bus speech, which seems to offer a happy ending that the whole show is really just about love and that love will conquer all — yet another age old cliche. Musically I find this moment quite moving, but it seems to offer a coherence at odds with much of the rest of the show. Either it indicts the cliche itself or it’s genuine and Wilson is really offering the idea that relationships are all we’ve got. For part of me this works; for another part it seems a capitulation.

          I’m thinking that the second actor’s speech at Trial 2 is the important moment, but I’m going to have to read the text to really understand what’s there.

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  • avatar

    To be honest, I didn’t think I would enjoy the performance because I knew that it didn’t have a plot like a normal opera. Surprisingly, I had a good time. I kind of liked the fact that I didn’t have to pay close attention to what was going on in order to follow the whole work. Each scene could function independent from the rest of the performances and enjoyed on its own.

    For some reason I thought that the black pants and white shirts the actors wore, and the the monochromatic sets, were refreshing. It was not too visually stimulating, yet captivating even in the most repetitive, mundane movements.

    I don’t know if I would go see another work like this, but this was definitely a once in a lifetime experience :)

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    • I like the grey backdrops, especially the torn spot in the Prison (contrasted with the perfect geometry of the court room) that becomes the window in which Patty Hearst appears. The “painter in light” description of Wilson seems to work.

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  • avatar

    A couple more points supplementing my earlier review:

    The relation of Glass’s compositional technique to traditional concert music is the same as that between a still photograph and a film. In Brahms or Wagner we wait to see where the harmonies will take us next; in Bach or Verdi we wait for melodic surprises. But in Glass we know the same intervals and rhythmic patterns will stay there for quite a while; not much will change. It’s a lot like gazing at a painting. Einstein changed our view of time; so does Glass.

    As to the Passion of Alberyt Einstein, I neglected to point out the resurrection symbol: the recumbent light beam that slowly rises to the upright position and then disappears into the heavens above. The symbol is almost a bit too explicit.

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  • avatar

    I wanted to pop in again briefly to sincerely thank *everyone* for their thoughtful and well considered comments re: the Einstein previews. This whole range of feedback is exactly what I was hoping to read. Here’s an additional ‘opinion poll’ question: based on your Einstein experience, would you agree that Dallas’ largely culture-hungry performing arts audiences would be benefitted by bringing the show here to Dallas, or no?

    Thank you all again, and please keep the comments coming.

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  • avatar

    Excerpt from my blog post:
    I kept thinking how much I would enjoy the whole thing were it hosted in a museum. I imagined myself walking around to look at the different sequences from a number of angles: peering at a particular performer up close, hunkering down so I could look up, walking to the back to get a far perspective, and, most importantly, whispering to a companion about how the thing was speaking to me at a particular moment. Like a great painting, Einstein constantly provides new and interesting things to look at, but it would be so much more effective to not be confined to one ass-numbing vantage point.

    Read full blog post:
    http://nanarama.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/got-a-rock/

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  • avatar

    Life in Ann Arbor. I decided to not give up on Einstein on the Beach and planted myself near the Power Center box office with a Need 1 Ticket sign Friday eve. A man said his friend got sick and handed me a 13th row center ticket, refusing money. He said it was the seat Robert Wilson sat in during rehearsals. The opera was AMAZING. Beautiful music and one gorgeous visual image after another. Tender and funny. It was 4 1/2 hours (no intermission) and I would see it again.

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  • What a show! I badly wanted to comment on it last night immediately after I got home, but with a show this experiential and visceral I was interested to see if I would dream about it. I knew what my ego and super ego were thinking last night, but I was curious to see what my id has to say this morning. Well lo and behold, I did dream:

    I was playing chess with the late film director and chess master, Stanley Kubrick. He was trying to explain some sort of mathematical theorem to me while constantly and arbitrarily moving the pieces around the board. The more I listened to him, the more I just heard a series of numbers without any words to explain them. The weirdest part was when, after he stopped reciting random numbers… he told me he had to leave because “we had been sitting there for 14,000 years, and he had things to do.”

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  • avatar

    Some writers on this page report being mystified but enjoying the sheer sensory impact of the opera. Others suggest that this impact is offensive because they see no meaning in the work, and, therefore, it’s pretentious.

    Consider this review by Bernard Holland in the NYT in 1992:

    The trick to loving “Einstein on the Beach” is knowing how it works and not inquiring too deeply into what it means. For in the end, the mystery of Robert Wilson’s stage pictures and Philip Glass’s music is in its guilelessness: the glassy chitchat, a bus driver’s sappy love story, a judge’s bad jokes, the music’s endless major and minor triads, the blown-up photos of Albert Einstein, a children’s-book illustration of a train in the countryside.
    Indeed, beneath the solemn ritual, “Einstein” has a folksiness. Nothing is obscure even if little makes sense. Like Einstein’s theory of relativity — in which objects swell or shrink according to the observer’s vantage point — “Einstein on the Beach” isn’t hard to understand; it’s hard to believe.

    Yes, guilelessness that’s hard to believe. Why? Because we insist on finding deep meanings. We make the value of art works that never intended to be “deciphered” into challenges for our interpretive skill. We want to be instructed. (“Wow! Maybe this opera will at last make Einstein’s achievement clearer to me. —- Aw, shucks, it didn’t.”)

    It’s hard to believe that what you see is what you get, says Holland.

    So, maybe it’s not pretentious after all, and no one need feel mystified or cheated out of a good interpretation.

    Interpretations are optional. As it happened, I could not resist my allegorical interpretation even after I had dropped the search and given myself over to the sheer painterly/sensory attitude; it was the “resurrection” scene that bit me in the leg! And so, what Holland calls the “sappy love song” became instead, without any effort on my part, a deliberately crafted token of our culture’s retreat to traditional forms, where we find our safe haven when things have turned ominous. (BTW, look around: that’s as true today as it was after Hiroshima.)

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  • avatar

    Last night’s (Saturday) experience WITH “Einstein on the Beach” was FABULOUS, ENGROSSING, AND THRILLING!
    Sound, light, movement, humanity=energy! We were COMPLETELY enthralled, captivaed, and mesmerized by the entire 4.5 hour experience. Bravo! This opportunity reinforces the intelligence of our decision to move back to Ann Arbor seven years ago. THANK YOU UMS!

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  • avatar

    Having only heard of traditional opera’s before, I went to Einstein on the Beach with limited expectations and background. There were many parts where I couldn’t follow the story or didn’t understand what was going on, but the thing I got out of this was the overall feeling of entrancement, where the music, overlapping narration, and scenes had some sort of dissonant harmony which rendered an almost meditative state. The experience was relaxing.

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  • I liked reading other peoples ideas about the pretentious nature of the opera as well their speculation on the meaning. I myself enjoyed many of the individual parts very much because they evoked such a wide range of emotions in me and I frequently had the “chills down my spine” sensation. Still, I found my self annoyingly determined to find both meaning and a purpose in the opera.

    Einstein on the beach brings up so many questions in my mind regarding the purpose of art in general. There are many different ways to view the opera and in many ways this depends on the perspective that you choose to adopt. You can take on a purely experiential role as an uneducated observer and you can be one to delve into its artistic and cultural significance. And it occurred to me about half way through that you can also view it from a psychological perspective. I think it is even possible that Wilson wants people to view the opera from the perspective of Einstein. Many times I felt as if I was being taken on a tour through the mind of Einstein and I experienced revelations simultaneously with him. But then this makes Wilson seem quite pretentious for assuming he can understand and try to recreate the breakthroughs of someone so brilliant.

    One can make many conclusions about the significance of the opera, but on the other hand, maybe it is Einstein on the Beach’s ambiguity that allows it to be so provocative because no one is holding your hand through the experience. Either way, I was impressed by the performance and its ability to keep me thinking!

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    • avatar

      Hi Oliver,

      I like your open-minded searching approach very much, and I agree that we can and should more often ask “many questions … regarding the purpose of art in general.” You, too, seem to have adopted the “sensory/painterly” attitude at times and to have had a hard time letting go the search for the “real meaning.” I can sympathize.

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    It’s amazing when you see a show that totally changes and widens your perspective on opera and art in general. I was so impressed by every aspect of the performance: the singers, dancers, instrumentalists and soloist (the saxophonist and violinist were shreddin it up!), the speakers, set design, lighting, everything! It was really refreshing to see something so new in opera, and I was almost constantly fascinated by what was happening on the stage and in the pit. I wish I could have seen it twice because there were so many minute details that were really awesome and I know that for as many of them I saw I probably missed just the same.

    I loved the Field/Space movements, the dancers and singers performed SO well and the stamina to endure through those parts (let alone the other 3 1/2 hours) was remarkable.

    The ending blew my mind. What a perfect way to end the piece, after everything we’d seen up till that point, a story of pure love with gorgeous music, amazing lighting, and an air of utter simplicity to the scene.

    To everyone involved in this magnificent production, BRAVO/A. People will be talking about this for a long time.

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  • avatar

    I absolutely, without question, loved Einstein on the Beach. In fact I sat straight through all 4 and 1/2 hours of it because I didn’t want to miss any detail of the opera. What impressed me the most, besides the obvious strength of mind and body that it must take to perform and help stage it, is how deliberate everything about it is. The way each scene sets a different living portrait…the way the characters could recite the same words over and over again but never in quite the same way…A true work of art. I wish I could see it again!
    I had read that the opera, rather than plot driven, was intended to be a sort of character portrait for Einstein. This is exactly what I loved about it, that each scene was like looking at a painting on the wall, alive and accompanied by music. And the length and slow changing nature of each scene gave me the feeling of being at an art museum and not just breezing but taking the time to thoroughly understand and digest each painting. Each scene drew me in until I bought it completely, (perhaps the music becomes almost hypnotizing at some point, that seems possible…) and although in the back of my mind I might think about how long the scene had been going on, when it ended I was reluctant to let the image go.
    One of my favorite images Wilson captured in the opera was from Train 1, when the lights went to dark on the set and the light the boy was holding made it look like a lighthouse in the middle of the night. Similarly I loved the Night Train…something about the light holding true surrounded by dark was really beautiful. Knee 3 I also especially loved.
    As for the meaning, I can’t say that I have developed a theory or even have thought deeply about how my experiences connect with it to create meaning. Instead I have accepted the whole image/experience of the opera as simply, something really beautiful. I didn’t assign any great insight or meaning to it, but instead somewhere the music and imagery resonated with me and I found myself tearing up a little (the truth!) at the finish, whether because it ended or what, I’m not entirely sure. I think it’s just because I found it beautiful.

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    • avatar

      Sarah, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about why it is that so often we feel dissatisfied with simple aesthetic reactions of the sort you describe and, therefore, keep searching for the meaning. Intuitively it seems to me that we feel a community of viewers or listeners remains incomplete – just an assembly of isolated individuals – until we have a sharable formulation of our own experience. Then we can talk to others and are no longer alone. Perhaps it takes personal strength to have a solitary reaction and to be content with it. Does this make sense to you? (I suppose people who meditate have ideas about this question.)

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      • avatar

        Hmm…yes, that does make sense. I think that for me, with something like Einstein, where the “meaning” is so open for interpretation, trying to lasso the experience into words or concrete thoughts lessens the effect it has…although I do believe one might tag down portions of it, instead of being unsatisfied attempting to construct logical, solid meaning from it all, it should be ok to find a meaning of sorts from any aesthetic reactions, as you put it. I think this sort of meaning, that comes from a resonance with your heart, soul, and even unconscious, is longer lasting and more powerful. I definitely agree that there is a reluctance to allow something to simply “be,” without a definite, understandable purpose. Very interesting.

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        • avatar

          I cannot remember where I read it or who said it, but I remember reading a quote long ago to the effect that the problem many people have with art is that they feel obligated to understand it. Is it so wrong to enjoy something purely for what’s visible on the surface? Deeper understanding can certainly enhance–or in some cases, detract from–initial enjoyment. If any deeper meaning is going to arise, it will only do so in its own time. One can’t force it. I definitely loved Einstein On the Beach, but I think I’d be suspicious of–or at least puzzled by–anyone who implied that I was loving it for the “wrong” reasons. We all respond to art in our own fashion. And while it’s often instructive to learn why someone else likes something–or not–it’s not essential.

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  • avatar

    A brilliant and oddly moving Rorschach. I had to resist forcing a narrative onto the waking dream I was sharing with my fellow audience members. My Impressions: Kabuki+Alberto Giacometti+Looney Tunes+Fritz Lang

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    The music intrigued me and at times put me in a sort of trance. One can clearly see the influence of Ravi Shankar and Allah Rakha (with whom Glass studied) in the music. The highly complex rhythmic patterns in “Einstein”are at least partially indebted to the “additive” process (as Glass calls it) inherent in Indian music.

    I was especially intrigued by the tenor saxophone feature prior to the spaceship scene. Strangely, this feature sort of reminded me of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” specifically “Part 1: Acknowledgement.” It should also be indicated that Coltrane was influenced by Ravi Shankar and actually named his son after him. Hence, it may be beneficial to take an in-depth look at Shankar’s music.

    At times I felt that the music, though intriguing, was a little monotonous. In other words, I felt like the music needed to breathe at times. However, I was impressed by the stamina of all the performers, and I found “Einstein” to be a positive learning experience.

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  • avatar

    Wow, what a performance! It was truly breathtaking.

    As the show began, everything seemed so bizarre – the repetitive jarring movements, the non-traditional sound, the changing pace – everything! The actors tweaked mundane activities such as walking, speaking, standing, reading, or typing ever so slightly, making them fascinating. Simultaneously, they attacked each action with such precision that I did not doubt the intent or necessity – they just seemed normal and fitting. Traditional theatre and cinema have made us accustomed to seeing projections of reality in performances, but by transforming what initially seemed abnormal into normal, Einstein on the Beach transformed its art into a part of life.

    The pace really caught me off guard a few times. Someone or something would be moving so slowly that I would look somewhere else, and then when I would look back, the someone or something would be completely changed. I guess the show really demonstrated how small/slow changes can make a huge difference, especially when we’re not paying attention.

    I loved how themes reemerged throughout it. For example, using age as a contrast – the old judge and the young judge (a child playing an adult’s part), the grown women as school girls (adults playing children’s parts), the gun next to the lollipop, and boy in one glass box and the man in the other, etc. People’s ages were blurred just like how time was blurred. The recurring themes in the music, dance, and words really tied the whole thing together.

    Love surpasses all time and space – it is limitless. This is the ending message of the show, and I don’t think a traditional opera could have communicated that message in the same way. Traditionally, love would be shown through interactions or narrative, but Einstein on the Beach shows something else, for which I have two ideas (and these are just my ideas – I’d love to hear everyone else’s!): either that A) despite everything we’ve seen here – despite altering our perceptions of time and space – the limitless of love still cannot be rightly expressed, or that B) when the limits of time and space are castaway (like in the show), love become comprehensible.

    But anyway, I’ve rambled long enough, so in conclusion – phenomenal show! It was an honor to have seen it.

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  • avatar

    First of all, Wow! I was really blown away by the performance! It all ran so naturally.
    One of the things that really struck me was the idea of language. What needs to be said? The repetition of phrases made me really think about the words themselves, what they mean, what they signify and how they changed slightly after hearing them over and over again. We hear so many words from here and there in the world, how do we filter out which ones are important? which ones having meaning? Some words in Einstein really resonated with the audience like “I feel the earth move” eliciting a laugh while the numbers blew by nearly unnoticed. This makes me curious how this concept of languages’ importance translates into society.
    I went in having a number of different expectations and I left in a content and contemplative mood. It was great to take a break to enjoy art unfold slowly before me. The show was simply entrancing!

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    I found the staging very interesting as well as some of the music. However, it was also an exercise in tedium. Glass does not know when to quit. The first dance number was interesting, but the second was dull and very repetitive. Both were composed of patterns without the dancers ever touching one another. I wonder what the connection with Einstein was — other than the violinist.

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    • avatar

      One image that I was reminded of by the dance numbers was atoms coming together and exchanging electrons forming new elements. It was also remniscent of gravitational attraction at times. There’s a bit in Philip Glass’ book, Music By Philip Glass, in which he and Wilson are discussing Einstein and Robert says something like, “Philip, you know who Einstein was. And I know who Einstein was. Everyone’s heard of him and knows who he was, right?” Glass responds, “Right.” Robert concludes, “So we don’t actually *need* to have him in the opera then, right?”

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  • I first heard about this opera sometime around my Sophomore year in high school. I managed to acquire the recording soon after. Never once did I ever consider the thought that I might be able to witness this thing. I honestly thought it was something for the history books. Something that exists and should be heard of, but something that isn’t necessary or practical to see. Perhaps this was also to qualm my own jealous thoughts about those that could see it. But I saw it. And I saw it twice. And I am so incredibly blown away.
    Einstein is a work of living, breathing art. Which is fascinating and horrifying and all other kinds of words that can’t begin to describe it. The level of precision in the imagery elevates it to something I think might be beyond words. Or perhaps it would ruin it to put it into words. It’s striking beauty, turning life into art and art into life and living on all the boundaries.
    I feel like a need a week to process this, dear lord.

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  • avatar

    i think that the opera sets love in a stark contrast to all of the rest

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  • avatar

    Friend of UMS Alex Ross was here too, apparently:

    http://www.therestisnoise.com/2012/01/these-are-the-days-my-friends.html

    I love the picture he has on this post. UMS should see about acquiring it for the archives.

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  • avatar

    John and I drove up from Columbus, Ohio for this rare opportunity. Fantastic! The performance was hypnotic, every aspect. I couldn’t take myself away from it even for a moment. The music and the choral performances were beautiful and haunting, and seemed to tap into something meditative and dream-like, unconscious, taking us along on this voyage in time and space. The dancers were so skilled, not just in movement but in their ability to move so slowly or not move at all. I was particularly struck by the two dancers who performed weightlessness while lying down. That would be so hard to do, and it happened relatively late in the performance when I would have imagined them to be exhausted. But I had the sense that these performers, all of them, were themselves moved along by the beauty and depth of the opera. The operatic timing was impeccable. How the chorus was able to learn the nuances of each of their parts is a mystery to me. It must have taken real dedication. And the sets were wonderful. I will always remember the flashing lights of the spaceship, but most of all I will remember the haunting scene in the fog at the rear of the train that was nearly matched by the fog outside when we drove home. Thank you University of Michigan for bringing this performance.

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  • avatar

    I can’t stop thinking about Einstein on the Beach! Ever since I saw Sunday’s performance I can’t get the music and the visual brilliance out of my head. I was nervous about sitting through a 4.5 hour opera that had little comprehensive dialogue and plot, but it was relatively easy. To my surprise, I found the opera beautiful and thought provoking. After awhile, I stopped trying to figure out “what the the opera meant” and just enjoyed the experience. I don’t think Phillip Glass and Robert Wilson wanted us to figure out “How Einstein fit in” or “What the hidden meaning is.” Instead, I think this opera was created for viewers to simply experience its unique combination of text, music and dance and take from it whatever they want.

    I am still baffled by how much skill and practice it must have taken both the musicians and dancers to endure such a physically exhausting performance. What a talented cast! Bravo!

    I feel so lucky that I got to witness such a rare and spectacular performance. Thanks to everyone who made this possible!

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  • avatar

    Rather than calling this a performance, I feel “Experience” would do justice to what I felt from Einstein on the Beach. Although the work spanned some four and half hours, amazingly I felt the work flowed very quickly. Throughout the work I took small glances at my watch and to my surprise, time seemed to move very quickly (at least my perception of it had been totally skewed by the setup and repetitive nature of the music and stage direction), 30 minutes would pass, than an hour, even though the motions on stage were developing excruciatingly slow. This is quite a marvel, given the subject of the work and its musings on speed and time.

    Overall the whole spectacle of it all was very enjoyable. The scenery, lighting and choreography were very stunning.

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  • avatar

    We are so lucky to have UMS and Ken Fischer who bring in such magnificent productions as “Einstein on the Beach” (along with all the rest of the season). Kudos to all the tech people involved in Einstein – what a feat!

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  • avatar

    I left Einstein on the Beach feeling dis-oriented, emotionally spent and buzzing with a strange kind of energy. It was a fantastic experience. I must say that I was a little apprehensive about sitting through a 4.5 hour opera of slowly developing, repetitive scenes with no surface story to follow. Luckily, my interest peeked with some discussion in my “Renegades” class and some personal research. The aspects of the opera that struck me the most were the ways the music and choreography completely warped my temporal senses and how emotional invested I became in an opera with no apparent story. I had sat through 2.5 hours of the opera before I took a break but it felt like only an hour or so. In this kind of meditated state induced by the music and visuals, my eyes tended to wander about the stage, slowly taking all the little nuances in. I found the way that my sense of time was being distorted was very appropriate considering this opera was about Einstein and, in some ways, relativity. I’m not sure if Glass and Wilson had this intention but the overall effect fit the work very well. I was also amazed at how emotionally involved I became with the piece. The last knee play was particularly striking.

    I am very happy that I was able to experience “Einstein on the Beach”, a part of history unfolding in front of my eyes.

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  • avatar

    We had been building up this opera for many days in my Mavericks and Renegades class, and I was very excited to finally complete my picture of “Einstein on the Beach”. The show was much, much more than I could have imagined. I was especially struck by the ability of the performers and sets to move slowly, yet still make changes that I did not notice. This happened frequently to me during the first Act, although I may have gotten more accustomed to watching afterwards. I found myself focusing on a few set of performers moving, then noticing a clock that had suddenly appeared from the ceiling, or a paper airplane that seemed to appear from nowhere. Wilson’s ability to disguise such profound movements really peaked my interest. I also found it particularly satisfying to notice (or create myself) allusions to my view of Einstein. In particular, the final bed scene in which the beam of light moved like the hand of a clock stirred my thoughts. It brought of ideas of Einstein’s “Light Clock”, and when the beam shrunk at the end, I couldn’t help thinking about time dilation and length contraction.

    Overall, the opera was very enjoyable and a unique experience. Bravo to all of the performers on their wonderful and arduous task!! It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I am glad it could happen here in Ann Arbor.

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  • avatar

    Going into the performance I didn’t quiet know what to expect. As I walked in, the the first knee play was going on. It’s stately style, created the sense of entering a grand hall. Below me the choir stood isolated by light. I was struck by the boldness of their presence. The lighting of this opera was absolutely stunning. I particularly liked the scene with the the space messenger boy who carried an illuminated cube and threw paper airplanes. The stage was much like a developing painting, with set and characters changing location at various speeds. Because my eyes were often following a single performer for awhile, I would often be surprised by rather dramatic changes that had taken place on the other side of the set. That being said, I feel I missed out on a lot, because my view of the the left of the stage was limited.

    Interpretation of this work is hard. After the performance, I was left in unsure of what I had just seen. As the night went on, the work’s various repeated texts echoed in my head. These are the days my friends, oh these are the days. These texts, which appear largely disconected from one another, do create a sort of collage, that gets deeply engrained in your mind. Its abstract sentences, leaves interpretation to the brain, which can play tricks on you. Wilson’s and Glass’ presentation of concepts is fascinatingly different than anything I’ve seen before. I did find my self getting impatient though parts with relentlessly intense themes.

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  • avatar

    Never have I seen a performance like “Einstein.” Being somewhat of a traditionalist, I went into the production with a bit of skepticism, but left feeling awed and inspired. The lighting and incredible choreography and control of actors, dancers, and musicians made for a mesmerizing experience. The scene changes and music changes, often sudden, were stunning and made for some surprising emotions. Absolutely incredible overall, and not an experience to miss!

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  • avatar

    I remember studying “Einstein at the Beach” at univeristy in 1996 as part of a music degree. I thought I would never see a live performance of “Einstein” in my life…..well after 16 years, three plane flights(I am from Perth, Australia), accross three time zones and two continents and an overnight bus trip to Ann Arbor, I finally saw a performance on Saturday night and what a performance! It was truly the highlight of my trip. Kudos to Messers Wilson and Glass and Ms Childs for collaborating to create a work of art that truly captures the mystery and allusion of the Albert Einstien.

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    Being able to witness and be a part of “Einstein on the Beach” was truly an amazing opportunity. One of the things I found most fascinating was how the lack of a narrative structure seemed to enhance my experience with the various aspects of the work. Although I am admittedly not much of an opera fan, I often find if difficult to take everything in without getting too wrapped up in trying to follow the story (this is particularly true if it is a work that I have not previously studied). It felt very freeing to not feel as if I was obligated to watch the different characters as the story developed. I was able to let my attention wander from one place to another, and really take time to appreciate the absolutely stunning visuals that Wilson presented. This increased focus on the more visceral aspects of the work made everything from the subtle shifts and movements of a characters hands, to the complex and constantly changing staging an incredibly intense and captivating experience. Though it lasted 4 and half hours, the piece was often so mesmerizing that it was truly a challenge to find anything about the production “boring.” I was very much surprised by how quickly the opera seemed to affect my perception of time. From the very first scene, the work really pulled me in, and I stopped thinking in terms of minutes and hours, but began to really follow the progression of musical and visual themes that I was being presented with.

    “Einstein” was truly an amazing experience, and I’m grateful to be able to have the opportunity to see it performed live.

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  • avatar

    What I love about ‘Einstein’ is the fact that a snapshot of the stage doesn’t do it justice. The way Wilson uses lighting and space is remarkable, and seeing it in person is really the only way to go. That combined with 4.5 hours of Philip Glass really makes an impact on an audience, whether they are familiar with the music of Glass or not. Musically, there are so many brilliant aspects of this opera, in part because I feel like it represents so many aspects of Glass as a composer. What I look forward to is the impact this work has on me in the future, because there is something about it that takes a while to process and sink in. To me, that is what makes it good art. You have to think about it, not necessarily in terms of what it ‘means,’ but how it applies to you. That takes time, and I think the beautiful part of this is that we’ll all have our own individual experiences with this work long-term.

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    Despite having some idea of what the show was to entail before seeing it, I was still blown away by the incredible combination of music, dance, lighting, etc. While I did find some of the actions and staging to be a bit “out there”, I was constantly captivated by the outstandanding production of sights and sounds. This was an incredible experience that I am thrilled to have been a part of!

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    I loved the choreography; for me this was the highlight of the show as there was already so much hype surrounding the music/staging/lighting. I felt the dance to be a nice counterpoint to the music; although both shared similarities in repetition.

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  • avatar

    Thoughts, post-Einstein, on what constitutes a renegade or maverick (though my preferred term now would be “change-agent,” or something a little less associated with cow brands and guns and the American West). A renegade/maverick/change-agent:
    • Changes, in some fundamental way, how we view things. Wilson, with the “fervent oscillations” of this pulsing, often frenetic production takes us both inside his singular mind and that of Christopher Knowles, the young man responsible for spoken text in Einstein; Knowles was diagnosed with autism as a kid, and I felt throughout the opera that I was being let or led into his existence (was it Knowles, not a young Einstein, boxed inside a glass capsule in the climactic spaceship scene, clawing to get out?). And Glass’s fervently oscillating music, its impossible-to-count notes and numbers and words (I disagree with Cage: not too many notes, Philip, but just enough to send us into some other wavelength);
    • Engenders a new vocabulary (visual, aural, linguistic)
    • Reframes the familiar, shatters cliché (or employs it to good effect: the lone scientist in the window, scribbling on the wall; the sudden narrative love story at the end of a non-narrative five-hour abstract painting)
    • Moves us without being sentimental (does this count as “renegade”? I’m not sure)
    • Completely, utterly jars our expectations, from the get-go (I’m in a new space, I’ve never seen anything like this before, I thought as I entered Power and saw and heard the performers onstage in the first of Wilson’s five “knee plays”)
    • Dares to do what you shouldn’t: produce something wholly uncommercial, wholly unaffordable; make it last five hours without a break (or seven days, as Wilson did with a show years ago in Iran). In Absolute Wilson, the HBO documentary, Robert Wilson says, “Sometimes you say to yourself, ‘What should I do next?’ And people advise you, or you decide yourself, what to do next. And quite often you’re trying to think of what is the right thing to do. But quite often, if you think, ‘What is the wrong thing to do, what should I not do,’ and then do that.”
    • Warps time; flexes space (as Einstein’s theories did)
    • Distorts the familiar
    • Haunts us

    Going forward—I’m thinking now of future seasons, not the current one—I hope UMS will be true to the concept of “renegade” and not simply slap the term onto shows because it’s convenient or they need to flesh out a series within a series. Einstein sets a high bar. Keep it there.

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  • I think the dances were amazing; though they seemed a bit too long at times, they were still one of the biggest highlights for me. I had a seat that I could see backstage from so I could see how tired all of the performers were as they went on and off stage, which made me appreciate their movements even more. The fact that most of the show was much more stagnant made the dances a nice change of pace as well.

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  • avatar

    This performance was one of those performances that I’ll just never forget. The energy in the room was unparalleled, and the quality of the performers and there stamina was something of a marvel. I’ve seen follow up videos of the tour since its launch from Ann Arbor, and it looks just as spectacular as it did here.

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  • avatar

    Somebody can tell me what is the last sentence in Einstein on the Beach?
    Thanks!

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  • 92

    PERFORMANCES & EVENTS

    Dawnofmidi-new-334x230
    TICKETS

    1/31/2015

    Dawn of MIDI

    Helen and Edgar production
    TICKETS

    1/7-1/10/2015

    Helen & Edgar

    Valery Gergiev conductor
    TICKETS

    1/24-1/25/2015

    Mariinsky Orchestra

    Cinderella production
    TICKETS

    4/24-4/26/2015

    Lyon Opera Ballet

    Messiah score on organ
    TICKETS

    12/6-12/7/2014

    Handel’s Messiah