Opera

Einstein on the Beach

Opera in four acts by Philip Glass and Robert Wilson

Concept: Susanne Kennedy, Markus Selg
Musical director: André de Ridder

Premiere: 4.6.2022 Theater Basel

What can (musical) theatre be today? In their first joint opera production, Susanne Kennedy and Markus Selg create a post-humanist total work of art about space and time. With their uncompromising aesthetics and characteristic theatre vocabulary, they negotiate fundamental issues of perception and blur the boundaries between humans and machines, reality and simulation.

Detail of a three-dimensional looking geometric structure in sandy tones, reminiscent of shells. The surface is broken by shimmering bronze and blue shapes.

Einstein on the Beach

© Susanne Kennedy and Markus Selg

  • approx. 4 h; The audience may leave the auditorium for individual breaks and is allowed to move around onstage freely.
  • In English with German surtitles
  • Age recommendation: 14+

A hyper-artificial world between future vision, computer game and psychedelic rapture encounters “Einstein on the Beach”, the 20th century masterpiece by Philip Glass and Robert Wilson. Inspired by the unconventional genius Albert Einstein, who once relativized time, Glass and Wilson created the opera “Einstein on the Beach” in 1976, revolutionising the worlds of theatre and music.

Kennedy and Selg take on this hypnotic tableau which unfolds without a linear narrative, but with propelling music and enigmatic verses, creating a walk-in musical theatre installation that merges ritual, theatre and visual arts. On the continually revolving stage, a new kind of community converges whose ritual movement vocabulary makes them appear to live according to their own, mysterious rules. Repetitive patterns of music, dance and in the set, which is based on 3D-modelling and video design, evoke a formal spirituality. They render time tangible as a sensory phenomenon and transfer the piece into today’s lived simultaneity. While this world of complete aesthetic autonomy thereby creates a presence in which past and future grow indistinct, the audience is invited to enter the stage and thus to become part of this reality. Spectators can move around the stalls freely and make individual decisions as to how they would like to experience this piece with all its acoustic and visual levels.

For the first time, the two special ensembles Basler Madrigaliste and the Ensemble Phœnix Basel can be seen together in an opera production.

Artistic team

André de Ridder, Jürg Henneberger Musical direction
Susanne Kennedy, Markus Selg Concept
Susanne Kennedy Direction
Markus Selg Stage design
Teresa Vergho Costume design
Richard Janssen Sound design
Rodrik Biersteker, Markus Selg Video
Meret Kündig Dramaturgy
Ixchel Mendoza Hernández Choreography

Cast

Suzan Boogaerdt, Tarren Johnson, Frank Willens, Tommy Cattin, Dominic Santia, Ixchel Mendoza Hernández Performance/Dance
Diamanda Dramm Solo violin
Álfheiður Erla Guðmundsdóttir Solo soprano
Álfheiður Erla Guðmundsdóttir, Emily Dilewski Solo soprano
Nadja Catania, Sonja Koppelhuber Solo alto

Basler Madrigalisten
Raphael Immoos Vocal coach
Viviane Hasler, Anna Miklashevich, Viola Molnàr Soprano
Schoschana Kobelt, Leslie Leon, Barbara Schingnitz Alto
Daniel Issa, Patrick Siegrist, Christopher Wattam Tenor
Tiago Mota, Breno Quinderé, Othmar Sturm Bass

Ensemble Phœnix Basel
Christoph Bösch, Josef Feichter Flute
Toshiko Sakakibara Bass clarinet
Raphael Camenisch, Sascha Armbruster Saxophone
Ludovic van Hellemont, Samuel Wettstein Electric organ

A production of Theater Basel in co-operation with Berliner Festspiele and Wiener Festwochen.

Einstein On The Beach by Philip Glass, Robert Wilson, © 1976 Dunvagen Music Publishers Inc, Used by Permission.