Einstein on the Beach

Apparently for the original production of Philip Glass's and Robert Wilson's opera Einstein on the Beach Wilson raised $850,000 of the million dollar production costs, so he was still in debt $150,000 and Wilson, in sharing this fact with his non-artist Father got the response, "I didn't know you were smart enough to lose that much money." You can hear Wilson's very funny/touching retelling of that exchange here at the 7'06" mark.

We know Einstein today for all the success it brought its main creators as it's been revived numerous times, but here at the mid-point of their careers the struggle is fascinating to hear about. "The day after the performance, Glass was back driving his taxi: 'I vividly remember the moment, shortly after the Met adventure,' he says, 'when a well-dressed woman got into my cab. After noting the name of the driver, she leaned forward and said: 'Young man, do you realise you have the same name as a very famous composer.'1"

And while Einstein launched both of their careers, as well as performer and choreographer Lucinda Childs, it's not something you can know or plan for or expect while you're doing it; in fact it's strange to even look back on and feel like you had any idea what you were doing. I found this excerpt from Childs from last year as another of her old productions was being remounted, "Still, Childs found it 'seriously moving' to see how many dancers wanted to work on the revival, and odd that, after so many years of feeling she was inventing her career as she went along, she was now being venerated as the grande dame of a golden era.2" It's encouraging after feeling like my wife and I are both constantly making this up as we go along to hear the heavyweights we look to today look back on the early and even the mid-points of their careers and express similar sentiments to what we're experiencing now. It gives one hope through all the uncertainty and the upheavals.

So let me close with one more tidbit from Philip Glass: "One aspect of Glass's life has remained constant: 'I am still trying to write melodies which are truly beautiful and fresh and unexpected. It's very simple: I find playing music and writing music very challenging. It hasn't gotten any easier as I've gotten older. And after 50 years of composing, that is an achievement in itself. It is still engrossing enough to get me up early and keep me working all day.'3" Let us all aspire to find the work that engrosses us enough to do it every day for 50 years. And be brave enough if we're not engrossed enough with what we've put our hands and minds to doing to leave it and find the vocation that does.


Here's a fun little video of Arthur Miller telling Robert Wilson what he thought of Einstein on the Beach.