Thursday, November 01, 2012

Back to Einstein

Los Angeles, November 1, 2012—
WE RETURNED ON SUNDAY to Einstein on the Beach, and I have no reason to write much beyond my earlier enthusiastic report, posted here last March. It remains an epochal experience, even a second time within eight months — in fact, we have our tickets for a third performance next January, in Amsterdam. When asked what the opera is about I have no hesitation n answering: it's about the Twentieth Century, and its progress from the age of mechanics and optics at the close of the Nineteenth to that of space and cybernetics at the dawn of the Twenty-first.

There were considerable differences in the effect of the opera, I thought. The Zellerbach stage, in Berkeley, was both smaller and closer than that of the Berlioz Theater in Montpellier. It seemed to me there were fewer dancers as a result — weren't there a dozen on the Berlioz stage? — and the Building scene, Act IV scene 1, was pressed toward the apron, and left less room for individuation among the members of the gathering cast.

More striking, the trial scenes seemed blander, less threatening; and Act II scene 1, the observation car of the train, with its isolated romantic couple, was on the other hand somewhat more ominous. On the other hand the soloists were closer, relating more closely to the audience, or at least to me.

Once again, we did not take any "breaks" from the four and a half hours: the opera is mesmerizing. Zellerbach was absolutely full, for the third performance running as I understand, and the house was quiet and attentive throughout, and tremendously responsive at the end. It was good to look at this audience, young and older, and reflect that while they have been deprived of their immediate cultural heritage by the Establishment theaters, opera houses, and performance organizations, who steadfastly refuse to produce the breakthrough work of the 1960s and '70s, they are receptive and responsive to the few exceptions to that rule. Again, many profound thanks to the generosity of this amazing cast and crew, and to the enterprise of Cal Performances and its partners in presenting this great landmark.

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