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Composer Philip Glass and director Robert Wilson's Einstein on the Beach, widely credited as one of the greatest artistic achievements of the 20th century, launched its creators to international success when it was first produced in Avignon, France, in 1976, with subsequent performances in Europe and in New York at the Metropolitan Opera. It is still recognized as one of their greatest masterpieces. Now, nearly four decades after it was first performed and 20 years since its last production, Einstein on the Beach will be reconstructed for a major international tour including the first performances in the UK (at the Barbican in May, as part of the London 2012 Festival) and the first North American presentations ever held outside of New York City. To coincide with the international tour and Glass’s 75th birthday, Nonesuch has now reissued its seminal 1993 recording, which the Washington Post wrote is "more complete than the first recording and superior in both performance and sound.
Einstein on the Beach breaks all of the rules of conventional opera. Instead of a traditional orchestral arrangement, Glass chose to compose the work for the synthesizers, woodwinds and voices of the Philip Glass Ensemble. Non-narrative in form, the work uses a series of powerful recurrent images as its main storytelling device shown in juxtaposition with abstract dance sequences created by American choreographer Lucinda Childs. It is structured in four interconnected acts and divided by a series of short scenes or "knee plays." Taking place over five hours, there are no traditional intermissions. Instead, the audience is invited to wander in and out at liberty during the performance.
Einstein on the Beach was revolutionary when first performed and is now considered one of the most remarkable performance works of our time. The New York Times art critic and producer John Rockwell has said of seeing Einstein on the Beach for the first time: “Einstein was like nothing I had ever encountered. For me, its very elusiveness radiated richly, like some dark star whose effects we can only feel. The synergy of words and music seemed ideal.” He continues, "Einstein on the Beach, perhaps, like Einstein himself, transcended time. It's not (just) an artifact of its era, it's timeless ... Einstein must be seen and re-seen, encountered and savored ... an experience to cherish for a lifetime."
The 2012 production of Einstein on the Beach, An Opera in Four Acts was commissioned by BAM; the Barbican, London; Cal Performances University of California, Berkeley; Luminato, Toronto Festival of Arts and Creativity; De Nederlandse Opera/The Amsterdam Music Theatre; Opéra et Orchestre National de Montpellier Languedoc-Rousillon; University Musical Society of the University of Michigan.
Philip Glass is one of America’s best-known living composers, with a career that spans more than four decades and includes chamber music, symphonies, operas, concerti, film scores, and music for dance. "Few composers of our time have dismantled the barriers between the music of the people and the music of the elite more consistently and creatively than Philip Glass," proclaimed the Guardian. "His achievement is massive."