Einstein on the beach

Einstein on the beach is a publication by Víctor Arráez investigating the similarly named opera. Einstein on the beach is an opera like no other. There is no story, no hero or heroine, no obvious links between worlds, images and music; a scene lasting 30 minutes may consist of a single image that changes at a mantric pace; the music may sustain a single note for minutes or explode into contagiously rhythmic combinations of voice, violin and amplified instruments. The American premiere of Einstein on the beach in 1976 changed the image of opera forever.

As a work of musical theater, EoB falls somewhere between a spectacle and a meditation. It is a work that challenges the audience to rethink the definition of opera. It also places extraordinary demands on the musicianship, technique and endurance of its performers, lasting four and a half hours with no intermission.

In 1984 Einstein on the beach was restaged at the Brooklyn Academy of Music as part of The next wave festival It was the first time since the opera’s premiere that its principal creators, composer Philip Glass and designer/director Robert Wilson restaged the work. In 2012, the opera was again restaged during a world tour that confirmed it as a masterpiece in the history of music.

The vocabulary of the opera is not that of a traditional narrative, it works by association, the opera’s juxtaposition of images and music are unexpected; in the universe according to Albert Einstein, when anything moves faster, time itself slows down.

This publication is an homage, an immersion into Glass / Wilson’s interpretation of Einstein during numerous months of research. The book itself is structured in the same way as the opera, combining still images of the performance, archive pictures, notes and criticism in a visual explosion of text versus image and color. It confronts the reader with pages of musical notes, overlapped pictures, full color spreads and tales of Einstein’s life.

The research for this book included Christopher Knowles’ texts written for the opera, Jim Page’s review of 1984, Glass’s notes and commentaries, Wilson’s sketches and hundreds of hours analyzing EoB’s music and videos.