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FULL EINSTEIN ON THE BEACH Buenos Aires 2024 Carla Filipcic-Holm

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  • Video Recording from: YouTube     FULL VIDEO

Einstein On The Beach is the first and most famous opera of minimalism, which burst into the genre with a radically new scenic and musical experience. Its premiere in 1976 caused a sensation and its impact has not diminished since then, something that could be seen with the success of this version created for the Teatro Colón in 2023, with Martín Bauer leading a creative “dream-team.” Three narrators and performers, a dozen dancers, a soprano soloist, an amplified choir and ensemble, and the film and opera teams display a true “tour de force” of more than three hours without interruptions.

Repetition to power
By Rodolfo Biscia
Einstein on the Beach managed to redefine the conventions of musical theater until it was almost unrecognizable. Lucinda Childs’ choreography was coupled with the sound trance proposed by Philip Glass and the approach that Bob Wilson deployed through costumes, scenery, lighting, and the expressive economy of movements and gestures.
The work exhibits little in common with what we identify as an “opera.” The actors monologue, the dancers perform very austere choreography, and the vocal performers sing a litany of numbers or the name of the notes they utter. Glass uses electronic instruments, dispenses with high-projection imposed voices, and resorts to vocal and instrumental amplification.
Although everything revolves around the figure of Albert Einstein, he only appears as a historical icon, wandering in similar or incongruous contexts: from a train to a spaceship, passing through a court that in a surreal way can house a bed or become a a prison It is useless to look for biographical details, or a plot or script in the usual sense.

The redundant and the unexpected

Musical minimalism usually arranges groups of instrumentalists and performers in the manner of a “sound installation,” and often aspires to the literality of meaning, rather than any symbolic or programmatic evocation. It is limited to limited melodic material and a constant rhythmic pulsation, and proposes an unexpected return to consonance and diatonism. The most notable feature of this music is, after all, the presence of repetition as a structuring element.
The scenes follow one another ceremoniously, constructed through very simple harmonic progressions or additive – or subtractive – modules repeated with exasperation (detractors will say: to the point of nausea). Although we always hear the same patterns and matrices, they are still the subject of incessant transformation.
Among other things, this novel organization of musical discourse represented a reaction to the complexities of postwar serial aesthetics. A fundamental idea in the construction of a twelve-tone series is that under no circumstances should any of its twelve notes be repeated before all of them have already appeared, simultaneously or successively. The opposition of principles is evident: while serialism avoids repetition, minimalism celebrates it, with enjoyment and compulsion.
Despite its apparent simplicity, this trend would represent a greater break with tradition than that produced by twelve-tone serialism. Minimalism would have managed to put in crisis the usual balance between identity and difference: that balance between the redundant and the unexpected that characterizes much of the music that is considered valuable.
The paradox is that, by enthroning repetition, this proposal ends up demanding more from the listener even when it seems to demand less. In other words, it demands an increase in sensitivity to changes in a context of extreme redundancy.
Like other major pieces of this musical trend, the work challenges us to sharpen our perception. It may be that, to the attentive ear, discrete transitions sometimes become radical changes: at these thresholds we will have to look for the epiphanies that minimalism – minimally – promises.

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