It Could Be Very Fresh:
Structure, Repetition, and Reception in Einstein on the Beach (1999; part 1)
Structure of the Opera
2 Throughout this paper, small caps will be used to denote motives in the opera. These motives can be found in charts in the appendix.
Addition of Wilson's Comment
Visual and Non-musical Structures
To be fair, ‘Einstein’ was a co-creation of Mr. Wilson and Philip Glass, the composer. But most people not only saw it as basically Mr. Wilson’s work—so much so that Mr. Glass was openly aggrieved, and has declined further collaboration with Mr. Wilson—but as the capstone to a series of remarkable large-scale Wilson theatrical creations that dated back to the 1960s. (New York Times, 26 November 1978, p. 5)
The transformations of the train into building and spaceship in Act 4 also have their roots in relativity thought experiments. The building, seen from both the front and side simultaneously, is a demonstration of how observers at rest see light reflected off objects moving at high speeds.11
The spaceship image, in addition to being a standard demonstration of relativistic length contraction (along with a rotating ruler or stick or an oblong clock which are also seen in the opera) hints at the prospects for future nuclear apocalypse which Einstein’s work on nuclear physics made a frightening possibility.12
The length contraction demonstrated by the spaceship manifests itself in several other ways in the opera. The tall, narrow chairs used throughout the opera are examples of this physical phenomenon on stage. Further analysis of how the staging parallels the teachings and life of Einstein will have to await a video viewing of the opera.