These are the days my friends and these are the days my friends

After waiting over 35 years, I finally saw a production of the Robert Wilson and Philip Glass masterpiece Einstein on the Beach. I’ve been listening to it for most of that time, truly one of my favourite pieces of music and surely the greatest opera one of the great operas of the 20th century. Many thanks to the visionary folks at Luminato for bringing this to Toronto.

The verdict? Well, I’m a complete Philip Glass fanboy. It was all the superlatives possible. I was completely transported for the entire 4 1/2 hr production (no intermission, no breaks). Sometimes in a trance, sometimes incantatory, sometimes almost cheering with enthusiasm, and sometimes just amazed by the virtuosity of the singers, dancers, musicians, and actors.

Einstein has no real plot or story. It is a series of impressionistic scenes. I don’t know what it means. If there is a message, a conclusion, it escapes me, even after all these years. And yet it is as compelling and meaningful as ever. It is a piece infused with ideas and yet absent of any didacticism. It washes over you. You become part of it. It is glorious.

Some clunkers? Yes. The judge’s speech (seems dated) the toy spaceship (awkward), and the moving bar of white light (boring, pretentious really). However, all is forgiven, the rest was glorious.

Glass has been so prolific in so many genres it is hard not to have heard his music, and often. So, after so many years is Einstein still fresh (“it could be very fresh and clean”). For me, unquestionably. Less than 12 hours later and I’m listening to it again (the 1979 recording). Magic still.

One regret. Robert Wilson, Lucinda Childs, and Michael Reisman all appeared on stage at the end, with the entire cast, to receive the rapturous adoration of the audience. Philip Glass did not appear. Unfortunate. I wanted to thank him for years of delight. To let him know it was worth the wait. Next time.


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2 Responses to These are the days my friends and these are the days my friends

  1. Geoffrey says:

    Certainly a great work, and a great performance. No question about it, but “greatest opera of the 2oth century”? I’m not so sure. Your pitting Einstein up against the bulk of Puccini’s output, some utterly brilliant pieces by Strauss (Elektra and Rosenkavallier among them), all of Britten’s output, Weill’s Three Penny Opera, and Berg’s Wozzeck.

    I’ll give you “great,” but call you on “greatest.”

    • Mike Ridley says:

      OK. Over reaching (or under valuing). Perhaps my enthusiasm got the better of me. However, I think Einstein was/is revolutionary in a wonderfully disruptive way. Maybe its in a league of its own. I’ll back off to “great.”

      Glad you enjoyed the performance.


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