Sunday, January 13, 2013

Another Einstein

van Linschotenstraat, Amsterdam, January 13, 2013—

SO MANY THINGS to write about, so little time (and, just now, energy) to write. Well, I've written here three times before about the Wilson-Glass-Childs Einstein on the Beach, which we saw at the premiere of the new restoration last March in Montpellier, at its Berkeley stop at the end of last October, and now in what was originally to have been the final performance of the tour, at the Muziektheater in Amsterdam. (Since we bought our tickets two more bookings have been added.)

After the Montpellier premiere I was too knocked out to write much about it; you can see the result here. The opera is overwhelming, in my opinion; we determined immediately to see it again.

Later, in May, I returned to the subject at greater length here, while working on a book based on blog posts and travel notes, and perhaps thinking a bit to encourage Eastside View visitors to get their own tickets. That long blog post was an attempt also to answer the question "Well, what is the opera about? In a nutshell, it's about the Twentieth Century, the historical process from steam trains like those Einstein rode in his youth, when he profited from the experience to analogize his theories on the relativity of time for popular understanding, to the age of the space ship.

But I almost completely gave up on commenting on the main thing the opera is about, which is Theater. As the ancient Greek plays are about cosmic things, examining human dilemmas in cosmic contexts, so are Robert Wilson's. The opera is about Theater, and Time; and it uses theatrical time, and plenty of it — over four hours, in which the audience is free to roam if necessary — to examine those two notions.

It is an incredibly rich and detailed piece. The large cast does a number of things, sometimes collectively, sometimes individually, and between the fineness of grain and the slow pace you frequently miss items, and you blink your eyes and wonder how we've moved from that to this — a familiar exercise to those of us approaching our eighties in the first decade of the new century.

The Amsterdam production is spectacular, smooth, utterly persuasive. The next-final scene, portraying a frenzied control-center in a space ship undergoing launch, has power and inevitability I thought somewhat lacking in Montpellier and Berkeley. The sound was marvelous; the dancing as compelling and inerrant as ever.

The best single account I find, in a cursory look at the Internet, was written last September for The Huffington Post; it saves me the trouble of writing more. I was glad to see the subject of generosity mentioned. To me it's one of the most telling aspects of this opera, this production, this tour.

Even if only artist and himself are involved, art is a social contract. The entire cast and crew — and, of course, the creative team — have been incredibly generous with this effort, in their attempt to reveal truths and beauties about an entire century. The least we can do is participate.

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