Last night, I saw my first opera, Einstein on the Beach, which a friend called a life-changing event. On leaving the theater after its 4.5 hours (or close to that; since it’s presented without intermission, I rushed through a chicken sandwich in the cafe outside while “Night Train” and “Knee Play 3” went on without me), I wasn’t so sure about that characterization, but now, a day later, I can’t shake the notion that I feel different now than I did before seeing Einstein, and I can’t explain why. I can’t explain just what the hell goes on (all throughout the first act, I kept suppressing the urge to interpret the action onstage literally), and without Hilton Als’ article, I’m sure I would’ve missed the pathos of the transition between “Space Machine” and “Knee 5” as well as the latter’s stunning paean to love (and listening to it again now, the emotions flood me just as intensely), but leaving the theater I was shaken, like my soul was shaken, like this performance convinced me I had a soul. That doesn’t go away.
I remember “Knee 4,” and how the two women writhed on transparent gurneys, lit so expertly in so many ways that one set of shadows cast upon the curtain behind them looked like figures trying to climb out of a box, and another set of shadows, dozens of feet high, doubled and trebled against each other from all the reflective surfaces, and I swore those shadows looked like angels, like they were goddesses. A very Gnostic moment. And I was crying. And not for the last time.