Composers Datebook®

Opera Glass?

Composer's Datebook - July 25, 2023


On today’s date in 1976, an unusual opera premiered at the Théatre Municipale in Avignon, France. It ran for five hours with no breaks between acts. The audience was invited to wander in and out as it pleased. The libretto consisted of numbers, solfege syllables and some cryptic poems written by a pupil from a New York School for Disturbed Children. Even the title of this new opera, “Einstein on the Beach,” was unusual, suggesting something at once serious and surreal.

In the opera, a violinist dressed up like Albert Einstein wanders in and out of some scenes, a reference to the fact that, in real life, the famous physicist was also a talented amateur violinist. Einstein on the Beach was collaboration between two Americans: composer Philip Glass and set designer Robert Wilson. It made the rounds in Europe, attracted a great deal of attention, and came to America in November of 1976 for two sold-out performances in New York staged at the Metropolitan Opera with Glass and his ensemble.

Its music was even referenced as a kind of “in joke” during a famous TV commercial in which Einstein debates the merits of Coke vs. Pepsi. For the record, Albert chooses Pepsi.

Music Played in Today's Program

Philip Glass (b. 1937) Violin Solo, fr Einstein on the Beach Gregroy Fulkerson, violin New World 80313

On This Day


  • 1883 - Italian composer, pianist and conductor Alfredo Casella, in Turin; He was the conductor of the Boston Pops from 1927-29


  • 1969 - American opera composer, Douglas Moore, age 75, in Greenport (Long Island), N.Y.


  • 1937 - Copland: "Music for Radio"(or "Saga of the Prairies") on CBS radio network, performed by CBS Symphony

  • 1970 - Dutilleux: "Tout un monde lointain" for Cello and Orchestra, in Aix-en-Provence

  • 1976 - Glass: opera, "Einstein on the Beach," in Avignon, France, at the Théatre Municipale; The American premiere took place as a non-season event at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on November 21, 1976)


  • 1788 - Mozart finishes his Symphony No. 40 in g. K. 550

  • 1937 - Barber's Symphony No. 1 is performed at the Salzburg Music Festival is Austria, by the Vienna Philharmonic, Artur Rodzinsky, conducting; This was the first American symphonic work to be performed at this prestigious international festival; The symphony had received its world premiere performance in Rome on Dec. 13, 1935, during Barber's Rome Prize residency

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®