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Philip Glass and Robert Wilson created "Einstein on the Beach" in 1976, and neither music nor music theater — including, and especially, opera — has ever been quite the same since. Glass' score, which made him famous, can be heard on complete recordings made in 1976 and 1992. Wilson's images, which made him famous, have been widely reproduced. That has been enough for the opera to have become the most influential of the past 50 years.
But only in the theater can Glass' hypnotically repetitive music and Wilson's mythically evocative staging and sublime lighting become the transport of a mystical experience. When the original "Einstein" was given at the sold-out Metropolitan Opera in New York for two special performances 36 years ago, many of us walked out of the theater into a changed world. The street sounds were newly charged. Neon lights looked like living art.