Tag Archives: philip glass

‘Einstein on the Beach’ Documentary ‘The Earth Moves’ Enters Final Stretch

With the blog gradually coming back, it’s only fitting that I discuss one of its stars: Einstein on the Beach.

A Kickstarter campaign recently began in order to fund the final stretches of The Earth Moves, a documentary by John Walter about the landmark opera spanning its inception to its recent revival. The film has been years in the making, and this final round of fundraising will help complete the editing and festival submission process. From the campaign’s official page:

In 2011, the original creators of Einstein on the Beach brought the opera to life again for what will most likely be its last presentation in their lifetime. Einstein on the Beach is an opera like no other. Telling its story requires a documentary like no other.

We completed shooting and editing The Earth Moves and we are all working very hard to finish the film for upcoming film festivals this fall. Now we need your support to fulfill the costs of color correction, media licensing, and sound mixing. Time is of the essence and every contribution helps our mission to complete this film.

Any additional support beyond the goal will go towards expanding the distribution of the film through educational markets and independent theaters nationally.

Regular readers may know this all too well, but I’ll say that my attending a 2012 performance in Ann Arbor was truly a life highlight for me, about which I wrote here. All the EOTB posts are here, but for now I recommend these two performance posts.

Judging by the video and the accompanying information, this looks to be a great resource for fans, educators, historians, and EOTB novices and experts alike. I’m happy to have contributed and highly recommend your doing the same if you’re at all interested in this seminal work. You have until Friday 07.03.15.

‘Einstein on the Beach’ Paris Performance Streaming until May 7

I know how it seems: the Wagner bicentennial is officially over and so I bring back another trope: Einstein on the Beach. That wasn’t the plan, but I’m happy to go with the flow.

This past Tuesday’s performance of Einstein on the Beach at Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet was simulcast via live stream. I watched along with my fellow Beachers. (If that’s not yet a term, I’ll gladly take credit.) I watched intermittently, anyway, as the stream occasionally crashed for me because of bandwidth – heavy traffic – and the weather around here has lately been horrible for internet connections.

Regular readers know of my love for this work – not just the piece, but the experience of it. I proudly count myself among the fortunate few who’ve attended a performance, all things considered. (I love Wagner, but his works are performed more than one tour every 15-20 years. The rarity is of course compounded by the fact that a full video recording has never been released.) And, as I described here, seeing Einstein was one of my favorite experiences, musical or otherwise.

For those who may have missed the stream, the tour, or both – and for those who may want to relive a fraction of the experience – the stream has been archived and made available for viewing until May 7. I highly suggest taking 4.5+ hours of your time and giving it a go.

A few brief thoughts on the stream:
• It was a great reminder, but it cannot live up to the real thing. (Of course.) This is partly because of the camera work. The various close-ups and angles take you out of your seat, as it were. Part of the genius of the work is getting lost in both the forest and the trees simultaneously – musically and visually. Large scenes move glacially and seemingly small actions are monumental. With the camera closing in on various characters and/or actions, it diminishes the larger scope some. For example, when the prisoner screams during “Trial II,” the close-up bars the viewer from seeing the judge’s simultaneous reaction – you only see it afterwards, but not as it happens.
• That said, some of these different – and unique! – angles help to give a new perspective if you’ve seen the performance live. For instance, I sat in the fifth row or thereabouts, so I lacked the aerial view of the two dance scenes. (The aerial view is preferable for them, although I had a great seat for the “Train” scene’s diagonal dance…)
• It was wonderful to once again enjoy Kate Moran‘s phrasing during “Trial II.” Simply wonderful. She’s so nuanced with compelling diction.
• “Building”! This scene gets short shrift on the audio recordings. What a delight to hear it full-bore. Andrew Sterman OWNS it. (Thank you, Mr. Sterman.)
• Composer Nico Muhly’s live-tweeting of the broadcast is a humorous companion.

I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity if even the slightest bit interested.

WATCH the stream HERE. You have until May 7.

This blog’s Einstein archive is here.

MTH-V: ‘Einstein’ Unplugged

Okay, okay. This will be my last Einstein on the Beach-centric post for a while. Promise. (At least I’ll try…) But I must share this.

While assembling links, etc., for the last MTH-V post on Einstein, I came across the below series of videos and giddily watched them all. Along with the 2012 Brooklyn run of EOTB last fall, part of the company (chorus, lead actors, violinist/Einstein Jennifer Koh, and keyboardist/director Michael Riesman) gave an “unplugged” performance of much of the opera: the five Knee Plays and the second “Trial” scene. The pieces are abbreviated, the instrumentation is much lighter (for most of them), and it lacks the staging and bizarre atmospherics of the full production. However I find these performance intriguing nonetheless. Granted, the audience members all likely knew what they were in for, but it’s nonetheless an interesting way to introduce the material to newcomers. Also, it begs the question that for an opera without a plot, how much difference does it make to hear certain selections out of context?

I’m glad there’s quality video footage of Kate Moran’s nuanced rendition of “Trial/Prison.” This was something that really stood out when I saw it last year. Ditto for Charles Williams‘s closing monologue in Knee Play 5. (I was completely out of my body at this point when I saw it in person.)

(Other EOTB posts here, herehere, and here..)

And now for the oratorio-like rendition (posted in order in full)…

Knee Play 1

Knee Play 2

Knee Play 3

Act III, Scene 1: Trial/Prison

Knee Play 4

Knee Play 5

MTH-V: Philip Glass Ensemble’s ‘EOTB’ (1982)

Regular readers know of my fondness for Einstein on the Beach. (And if you’re curious, go herehere, and here.) I won’t sit and gush about my seeing it live last year. But it’s still with me. Constantly. I’ve been on the road a lot this last week for gigs and EOTB has regularly kept me company in the car. There are a number of videos I’d like to include, but I’ll instead be breaking this up into separate posts.

This week’s videos are clips of a 1982 concert performance by the Philip Glass Ensemble of “Train” and “Spaceship.” They’re the first and last scenes, respectively, of the work (save for the knee plays). There are interesting interview segments with Philip Glass at the end of each clip.

Of course, keep in mind that these are abbreviated versions. 🙂 The staging is fascinating for both sections, but it’s interesting to see this in concert performance. Excuse the fuzzy video quality; this is from a VHS transfer.



MTH-V: ‘Einstein’ 2012

“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…


For fans of the LEGO parodies, check out these two videos: here and here.