‘Einstein on the Beach’ coming to West Coast

Philip Glass’ 1976 gargantuan opera “Einstein on the Beach” took a major Metropolitan Opera treatment with Robert Wilson to come to life. It doesn’t travel well, but still it’s amazing that this seminal work in contemporary music hasn’t made it to the West Coast.

Now, Cal Performances — co-commissioning the production with six organizations in England, Italy, Holland, France and the U.S. — is bringing the work to Berkeley. The opera is slated to run Oct. 19-28, 2012.

“Einstein” is said to break all of the rules of conventional opera. Instead of a traditional orchestral arrangement, Glass chose to compose the work for the synthesizers, woodwinds and voices of the Philip Glass Ensemble.

Non-narrative in form, the work uses a series of powerful recurrent images as its main storytelling device shown in juxtaposition with abstract dance sequences created by American choreographer Lucinda Childs.

It is structured in four interconnected acts and divided by a series of short scenes or “knee plays.” Taking place over five hours, there are no traditional intermissions. Instead, the audience is invited to wander in and out at liberty during the performance.

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