Einstein on the Beach premiered on July 25, 1976, at the Avignon Festival in France, performed by the Philip Glass Ensemble and presented by the Byrd Hoffmann Foundation. The opera was also staged that summer in Hamburg, Paris, Belgrade, Venice, Brussels, Rotterdam. In November 1976, Einstein was performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. Lucinda Childs, Robert Wilson pupil Sheryl S. Sutton and Samuel M. Johnson filled the primary characters; all three reappeared in the 1984 BAM revival.

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