I made it to the opera in Berkeley tonight. I was impressed how the composer sympathetically conveys the experience of the President as he majestically gets off a long plane ride from the US to China. Oh wait, that's the other canonical late 20th Century American opera.
Ok, back to Einstein on the Beach. I can't decide if it was crazy, crazy good, or the whole experience was just a dream. Probably all three. Seeing is believing, in this case.
While the opera conveys next to nothing about Albert Einstein, it's definitiely a consciousness revolution take on the first half of the 20th Century. With hindsight, 1900-1950 should be classified as crazy. So those 1930s-born creatives, Philip Glass, Robert Wilson, and Lucinda Childs, filtered that modern atomic era through a 60s/70s aesthetic. Call it a "double crazy."
I look forward to a future production, by younger artists, to see if the work can escape its creative context.
Doctor Atomic, by John Adams, in a way, covers the same subject, except that Adams is a baby boomer rather than from the Silent Generation (e.g. Colin Powell, Walter Mondale, Woody Allen, Martin Luther King, Jr., ElizabethTaylor, Elvis Presley as well as Glass/Wilson/Childs). That Adams opera probably won't be a canonic work, despite some early enthusiasm on my part.
Einstein's 4.5 hours was long but it was like a plane ride in that after a couple hours, the momentum started to accumulate and before I knew it, we were on our final, crazy, descent. Similarly, I didn't feel like climbing over my seat mates given the opera had no formal intermission (for a 4.5 hour production!).
In general, the flight/opera was smooth although I found it hard to hear, in the balcony anyway, the charming and perplexing text at the beginning and end e.g.:
It could be a balloon. It could be Frankie. It could be very fresh and clean. All these are the days, my friends, and these are the days, my friends.
Plot spoiler here.
And the work, although dramatic, didn't have the live physical impact of say, Music in Twelve Parts and Koyaanisqatsi. Still, a memorable show.
Personal note: after choosing family over art last night, I had to choose art over sports tonight. I missed the entire Giants World Series game since the start times of the opera and the game were, for some reason, synchronized.
Although I closely follow the San Francisco Giants, I was a boyhood fan of the Detroit Tigers and I may ultimately regret saying this, but I hope the Tigers win on Sunday. The spouse and I are going to the matinee of Einstein on the Beach tomorrow afternoon so a loss would let me watch what could be the final game on Monday.
Go Giants (sooner or later) and go Philip Glass...