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Friday, January 20, 2012

Einstein on the Beach 2012 Tour

Einstein... on the beach
One of the most iconic stage pieces of the 20th century, Einstein on the Beach has a storied history. After composer Philip Glass, director Robert Wilson, and choreographer Andy DeGroat premiered their five-hour collaborative opus at the Festival d'Avignon in March of 1976, Glass and Wilson rented the Met’s opera house for two nights the following November, producing it themselves. While it put both artists in deep debt, it also brought their careers to a new level. No longer relegated to the “downtown artist” ghetto, Glass and Wilson post-Met became international artists, performing their works at the greatest theaters, opera houses, and concert halls throughout the world. In hindsight, Glass’ and Wilson’s then-risky rental of the Met was a sage investment in their careers, and in the genre of opera.

Yet even as Glass and Wilson traipsed around the globe, performing new works throughout the late 70s and early 80s, audiences were still abuzz for Einstein. Eight years later, in 1984’s Next Wave Festival, BAM produced a revival of Einstein (alongside a documentary about the piece, Einstein on the Beach and the Changing Image of Opera). Glass and Wilson brought on a new choreographer, Lucinda Childs, who had danced in the original production, and who had collaborated with Wilson at BAM in her 1981 piece, Relative Calm. In The New York Times, Mel Gussow noted in his review of the restaging that Childs’ choreography “is more like stop-action photography than whirling-dervish movements,” the latter of which is a signature of DeGroat’s.
Einstein program from 1984. Download entire program here.
In 1984, many of the quirks of the original production had been worked out not only by the revamped choreography but by the employment of professional musicians, actors, and dancers. When BAM again revived Einstein for 1992’s Next Wave Festival, the creators reverted to the details of the 1984 production. Two decades later, the ’84 production will again be the template for a third revival, with one crucial difference: all of Einstein’s major collaborators, now in their 70s, agreed it was time to inject fresh energy into the performance. For the first time, Childs and Sheryl Sutton (a longtime associate of Wilson’s) will not perform. Instead, many of the performers and secondary collaborators come from a younger generation—some of them were not yet born when Einstein premiered in ’76—thus the piece will be opened to the sensibilities of new generations.

The grand tour for 2012’s Einstein kicks off tonight at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where rehearsals have been held. For the next year, performances will take place in Europe, the US, Canada, and Mexico. It will return to Next Wave for the third time in September—giving Einstein a tie with Mark Morris’ The Hard Nut for the Most Performed Piece in the Next Wave Festival!


  1. This photo is worth a million very smart words.

  2. I'd like Dana Retiz to be more a part of Einstein's history.

  3. Correction: Dana Reitz

  4. When do tickets go on sale?