Opera Profile: Philip Glass’ Magnus Opus, ‘Einstein on the Beach’

By David Salazar

“Einstein on the Beach,” which had its world premiere on July 25, 1976 at the Avignon Festival, is one of Philip Glass’ famous operas.

It is the first of the “Portrait Trilogy” which also includes “Akhnaten” and “Satyagraha.” The work aims to explore the character of Einstein across a unique dramatic landscape. The work was created in collaboration with Robert Wilson. The work, which can last up to five hours in full performance, has had a solid run since its world premiere appearing in Frankfurt, Melbourne, Barcelona, Madrid, Tokyo, Brooklyn (BAM) and Paris, New York City, and Stuttgart, among others. It also had two performances at the Metropolitan Opera House in November 1976.

Short Plot Summary

 The work eschews traditional narrative and simply presents symbols across three different spaces. The work features nine “knee plays” across four acts. The idea is to present Einstein through the symbols and ideas laid out throughout the work without a clear-cut plot structure. The work takes place in such locations as a Night Train, Prison, and Spaceship, among others.

Watch and Listen

 Here is a full production of the opera.


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