glass notes
Einstein hits London

Gosh, one week away and quite a lot has happened. 

Perhaps the largest event was the UK premiere of "Einstein on the Beach"  at the Barbican in London. 

The BBC did an interview with Glass and Wilson about their creation. Here is Richard Fairman's rather snooty account of his attendence written in the Financial Times.  But perhaps the most ignorant review was by a jackass named Rupert Christiansen of the Telegraph who:

"remains adamantly of the view that such stuff is flatulently pretentious in its wilful opacity and without aesthetic, intellectual or spiritual substance. It is also asphyxiatingly tedious and left me wanting to scream. Unless you are a paid–up devotee of the Glass–Wilson cult, avoid this like the plague."

This made my day. The fact that a great many people, including myself, find a great deal of aesthetic, intellectual and spiritual substance in Einstein is self-evident.  Generations of short-sighted music critics have come and gone as this work marches on bringing great joy to people, must really drive them crazy.  

To his credit, Mr. Clements of the Guardian simply calls Einstein "old fashioned."  The way these writers contort themselves in every possible way to find a way to criticize is simply unbelievable.  Do they find the Rite of Spring old fashioned enough to mention it in reviews? Is the Ring cycle old-fashioned?  If calling something old fashioned isn't a criticism then surely they don't anticipate future productions of the work?  That's strange because I anticipate many. 

This same phenomenon happened around the recent perofrmances of Satyagraha.  Certain works, whether I like them or not stand the test of multiple generations of audiences.

Mr. Michael Church of the Independent seemed to like the show, maybe it's in the British delivery, as I imagine these articles being read by nasally BBC reporters, but he ends his review like this:

"If you’re looking for 'meaning', this is a monumentally boring show. But if you just say yes, it’s intermittently glorious."

There is some lingering controversy in that apparently Bianca Jagger saw fit to snap flash photos during the show. 


9 thoughts on “Einstein hits London”

  1. Just returned from Einstein at the Barbican (I travelled from Edinburgh and spent exactly the same time on the train down as I did watching the show !)
    Utterly , utterly brilliant ! (the show , not the train journey)
    I can now perhaps understand the potential problems trying to do it justice on film , but please try Mr Glass. For me , it was the theatrical/musical/dance/operatic/whatever experience of my life. Thankyou so much !

  2. I’m rather glad it’s a production that can still rile conservative opera critics.
    It was a fantastic experience, one that I really never thought I’d have the opportunity to see in my lifetime. Bravo to all involved (the stamina of the performers was truly astonishing)

  3. The positive review.
    Wow, I’ve waited for this since 1988, the first time that I heard the opening notes of Einstein (it was on a night bus, on rainy night, on a cheap white bass-less Walkman). So, 25 years of waiting came to a rewarding end. I saw a Robert Wilson production once (one in the DDD series), but it didn’t prepare me for this brilliant spectacle. All the ingredients (music, choreography, lighting) melted into one amazing “thing”. 4 1/2 hours passed quickly, twice. A word of advice for future viewers. I saw EOTB twice, once from a seat right in the center of the row, and once 7 chairs to the left. Keep to the middle! It’s amazing how several visuals just don’t work when you’re not viewing them directly from the center (except for the spaceship scene, which was a bit better from the left, due to the “man in black” light dance). It’s a must see for everyone, and especially for Glass fans.

  4. The negative review.
    Ok, the piece was excellent. The dancers, singers and actors were mostly brilliant. I saw the show twice (on the 11th and the 13th of May, in the Barbican in London). How come the spaceship was missing from dance 2 (“Field/Spaceship” scene)? Where was the flying man in the Spaceship scene? I mean, would one consider excluding the flute and piccolo parts in the music because of technical problems? The visuals are as important as the music, and should be honored as such. From the technical side, things weren’t smooth even on the opera’s last Barbican performance: the light beam in Bed swayed to the right and the left during its ascent, the missile jerked around and its flight was anything but smooth (in the Spaceship scene). They had enough time to put things right, this isn’t the first “cheap” production of Einstein where no one knew exactly what they’re doing, there’s no excuse this time. (I also believe that the PGE “train wrecked” the music twice, during the Night Train and Dance 2 scenes, but maybe it’s just my hearing or my memory).
    Now to the subjective criticism. Musically, the interpretation was mostly like the 1992 recording, although the lead singer in the Bed aria used less vibrato, thanks god, but we still had the “Jazzy” sax solo in Building, instead of Jon Gibson’s brilliant original solo, and the Paris speech was replaced by the lame “All man are equal” one. This sound design lacks “bite”, but maybe i’m just too conservative. I don’t know if the missile and the silk screen describing an atomic explosion (from Spaceship) are new additions or were part of the original production, but I find that they don’t go well with the “abstract-ness” of the work.
    Having said all that, it’s still a must see, and I hope that the technical problems will be fixed in the next productions.

  5. To be honest I thought that was the only good review. A little heavy handed, but he got his point across. Spaceship or not, it wouldn’t have changed this reviewers mind. He suspected that he was being hoodwinked and he was spot on. Maybe it would have been different if he heard the Penal Colony. -Bz

  6. Thanks Boolez, as always, we thank you for your insight. Not many “professional” music critics like yourself have the type of success and money to be able to fly to London to see something like this. Maybe because you save all your money by living with your mother. I can safely assume you agree with the critic because you yourself were there?

  7. I saw it with my 17-year old daughter who was amazed and happy all the way through. I am a big fan anyway, but isn’t it great that it worked for someone so young!!

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