The New York Times has called the Robert Wilson and Philip Glass’s collaboration, Einstein on the Beach, An Opera in Four Acts, an “original, visionary and generous work.” Widely recognized as one of the great theatrical achievements of the 20th century, Einstein on the Beach will be presented by Cal Performances, Friday, October 26 at 6:00 p.m., Saturday, October 27 at 5:00 p.m. and Sunday, October 28 at 3:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall. Defying the rules of conventional opera, Glass composed the work for his own Philip Glass Ensemble, consisting of synthesizers, amplified woodwinds and voices. The minimalist work designed and directed by Wilson, has no discernible plot or characters and uses a series of powerful recurrent images shown in juxtaposition with abstract dance sequences. American choreographer Lucinda Childs created the movement for Einstein on the classical principle of theme and variation. The opera consists of four acts connected by a series of short scenes that carry the audience through time and space. The performance lasts nearly five hours and has no traditional intermissions; audience members are invited to wander in and out of the theater at their own discretion. Of the 2012 production, Armelle Heliot of Le Figaro, said, “It’s beautiful, it’s funny, it’s touching, it’s mesmerizing…it is undoubtedly the most spectacular work of the twentieth century that exists before us.”
Photo credit: Lucie Jansch
Einstein on the Beach was the first partnership between Robert Wilson and Philip Glass. For the new production they are working with a number of their longtime collaborators, including Childs who choreographed the opera’s two revivals in 1984 and 1992. All of these artists are now in their 70s. They are committed to passing on the work to a new generation, thus recruiting younger artists for the creative team and cast. “In this production, my composition will remain consistent with the 1976 original,” said Glass recently. “The technology of theater staging and lighting has improved to such an extent that it will be interesting to see how Bob [Robert Wilson] uses these innovations to realize his original vision.” The opera was written by Glass, with additional writings by Christopher Knowles, Samuel M. Johnson and Childs. The production will be a cornerstone of Glass’s 75th birthday year.
Aside from New York, Einstein on the Beach has never been seen in any of the cities currently on the tour. Produced by Pomegranate Arts, Inc., the 2012 production of Einstein on the Beach, An Opera in Four Acts was commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music; the Barbican, London; Luminato, Toronto Festival of Arts and Creativity; De Nederlandse Opera/The Amsterdam Music Theatre; Opéra et Orchestre National de Montpellier Languedoc-Rousillon; the University Musical Society of the University of Michigan; and Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley. For further information, go to pomegranatearts.com/project-einstein.
The Department of Music at UC Berkeley is hosting a Composer Colloquium on Friday, October 26 at 3:00pm in 125 Morrison Hall. It will feature Philip Glass talking about his work including Einstein on the Beach with Associate Professor of Composition, Ken Ueno.
There will be a symposium, called Einstein on the Beach: Re-staging/Re-construction/Re-enactment, on Saturday, October 27, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., in the Zellerbach Playhouse. In 1976 Einstein on the Beach brought together the minimalism of composer Philip Glass with director/designer Robert Wilson’s non-narrative approach to performance to create a work that radically changed expectations about opera. In conjunction with the current production, this symposium examines what it takes and what it means to re-create and perform a seminal but rarely-seen work almost forty years after its premier with scholarly and behind-the-scenes reflection. Participants will include: Linda Brumbach, Producer, Pomegranate Arts; Lisa Bielewa, soprano, Philip Glass Ensemble; Robert Fink, Department of Music, UCLA;
Frédéric Maurin, Department of Theatre Studies, Université de Paris 3, Sorbonne Nouvelle;
Charles Otte, Department of Theatre and Dance, University of Texas, Austin; Alisa Regas, Associate Producer, Pomegranate Arts; Mary Ann Smart, Department of Music, UC Berkeley; Sue-Ellen Case, School of Theater, Film, and Television; and Susan Leigh Foster, Department of World Arts and Culture, UCLA. This event is co-sponsored by Cal Performances, the Arts Research Center, The Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities, and The Department of Music at UC Berkeley.
Artist Talk takes place on Sunday, October 28 from 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. in the Zellerbach Playhouse. It will be a unique opportunity to hear from all three creators of Einstein on the Beach: Robert Wilson, Philip Glass and Lucinda Childs.
For more information about these and other Education and Community Programs at Cal Performances, visit http://calperformances.org/learn/
The New York Times has described Robert Wilson as “a towering figure in the world of experimental theater.” His works integrate a wide variety of artistic media, combining movement, dance, lighting, furniture design, sculpture, music and text into a unified whole. His images are aesthetically striking and emotionally charged, and his productions have earned the acclaim of audiences and critics worldwide.
A native of Waco, Texas, Wilson was educated at the University of Texas and arrived in New York in 1963 to attend Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. Soon thereafter Wilson set to work with Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds and together with this school developed his first signature works, including King of Spain (’69), Deafman Glance (’70), The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin (’73), and A Letter for Queen Victoria (’74). Regarded as a leader in Manhattan’s burgeoning avant-garde, Wilson turned his attention to large-scale opera. After Einstein on the Beach, Wilson worked increasingly with European theaters and opera houses. In collaboration with internationally renowned writers and performers, Wilson pioneered original works that were featured regularly at the Festival d’Automne in Paris, the Schaubühne in Berlin, the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, and the Salzburg Festival.
Wilson continues to direct revivals of his most celebrated productions including The Black Rider in London, San Francisco, and Sydney, The Temptation of St. Anthony in New York and Barcelona, Erwartung in Berlin, Madama Butterfly at the Bolshoi Opera in Moscow, LA Opera, Het Muziektheater in Amsterdam, and Wagner’s Ring cycle at Le Chatelet in Paris. For the Berliner Ensemble he created two highly acclaimed recent productions: Brecht’s Dreigroschenoper and Shakespeare’s Sonnets.
Wilson hosts students and professional artists from around the world at the International Summer Arts Program at the Watermill Center in eastern Long Island, an interdisciplinary performance laboratory. In 2006 the Watermill Center dedicated a brand new building on its grounds and inaugurated a year-round programming schedule.
“Philip Glass’s place in musical history is secure. His sprawling, churning, monumentally obsessive works of the nineteen-seventies…have fascinated several generations of listeners, demonstrating mesmeric properties that are as palpable as they are inexplicable.” (The New Yorker) His 20 plus operas, eight symphonies (with more on the way) and his wide-ranging collaborations with artists ranging from Twyla Tharp and Alan Ginsberg to Woody Allen and David Bowie, Philip Glass has had an extraordinary impact upon contemporary music. His operas—including Satyagraha, Akhnaten and The Voyage, among many others—play throughout the world’s leading opera houses. Glass has written music for experimental theater and for Academy Award-winning films such as The Hours and Martin Scorcese’s Kundun. His initial filmic landscape with Godfrey Reggio and the Philip Glass Ensemble, Koyaanisqatsi, may be the most radical and influential mating of sound and vision since Fantasia. His association with leading rock, pop and international music artists dates back to the 1960s, including the beginning of his collaborative relationship with artist Robert Wilson. Glass is the first composer to win a wide, multi-generational audience in opera houses, concert halls, the dance world, film and popular music.
Glass was born in 1937 and grew up in Baltimore. He studied at the University of Chicago, Juilliard and in Aspen with Darius Milhaud. Finding himself dissatisfied with much of what then passed for modern music, he moved to Europe, where he studied with the legendary pedagogue Nadia Boulanger (who also taught Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson and Quincy Jones) and worked closely with the sitar virtuoso and composer Ravi Shankar. He returned to New York in 1967 and formed the Philip Glass Ensemble—seven musicians playing keyboards and a variety of woodwinds, amplified and fed through a mixer. The new musical style that Glass was evolving was eventually dubbed “minimalism.” Glass himself never liked the term and preferred to speak of himself as a composer of “music with repetitive structures.” Much of his early work was based on the extended reiteration of brief, elegant melodic fragments that wove in and out of an aural tapestry. He currently presents lectures, workshops and solo piano performances and continues to appear regularly with the Philip Glass Ensemble.
Tickets for Einstein on the Beach, an Opera in Four Acts on Friday-Sunday, October 26-28 in Zellerbach Hall start at $35.00 and are subject to change. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall; at (510) 642-9988; at www.calperformances.org; and at the door. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. UC faculty and staff, senior citizens, other students and UC Alumni Association members receive a $5.00 discount (Special Events excluded). For select performances, Cal Performances offers UCB student, faculty and staff, senior, and community rush tickets. For more information about discounts, go to http://calperformances.org/buy/discounts.php or call (510) 642-9988.
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Cal Performances thanks Wells Fargo and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their major support of the Season.
Made possible, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts and by Patron Sponsors Louise Gund and Liz and Greg Lutz.