“Would it get some wind for the sailboat?”
It’s been about 4.5 months since I was fortunate enough to attend the final “preview performance” of Philip Glass‘s Einstein on the Beach. Just as the opera continues to shock and intrigue almost forty years after its premiere, I myself remain utterly fascinated all these months later. And it’s not that I’m simply taken with the work per se, but rather just what I experienced in person on that lovely winter afternoon in Ann Arbor in January. That night’s immediate reaction is detailed here. (If you don’t know about this piece, do reference the above links.)
Now that I’m beyond jotting down my immediate thoughts, I can safely said that I truly was moved by this experience. Without being hyperbolic I feel as if my “aesthetic self” can be measured in some ways as “before Einstein” and “after Einstein.” It resonated with me deeper and more profoundly than I had anticipated. As my wife can attest, I frequently bring it – either the work in general, my seeing it, or what it means to me – up in conversation. Frequently. And since January I can specifically remember three separate occasions in which I tossed and turned throughout the night because it raced through my mind. (The most recent was this past weekend, hence this week’s “MTH-V.”) Although I’m sure this weekend’s episode was partially in thanks to the tweeting of the entire libretto. (Which I of course enthusiastically followed.)
What I wouldn’t give to see experience it again on this (final?) world tour. There are so few chances, and I have either competing travel plans (as is the case for this weekend when it’s in Toronto) or a full slate of gigs lined up (September in Brooklyn) to contend with. Yet I continue scheming to try to make it work. Who knows…
So why the fascination with a 4.5-hour intermission-less, plot-less opera “about” Einstein? Well, Albert’s own words perhaps sum it up best: “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.” -from The World As I See It And it was both mysterious and beautiful.
Because Einstein is easier done than said, this week’s video is of abbreviated footage of “Train” (Act I, Scene 1). An audience member captured pretty good footage from the Montpellier performance (the next stop after Ann Arbor’s “previews”). And I say abbreviated because it occasionally skips to “condense” the scene down to 10 minutes. The actual scene is over twenty minutes in length, though you wouldn’t know it sitting in the audience. (You lose all sense of time and place if you allow yourself to get lost in it.) This person has posted condensed versions of most all of the scenes and knee plays (interludes), but I chose the opening scene because this is what sucked me in. During the introductory knee play I was still just thinking this is so cool. But a few minutes into “Train” I was far from Earth and didn’t return until over four hours later.
The official trailer for the Brooklyn run features 2012 footage from Ann Arbor, I believe…