Friday, January 25, 2013

Walt Disney gets an Opera - review

The Perfect American, an opera by Philip Glass, opens in Madrid and shows Walt Disney as 'a racist, misogynist megalomaniac'.  Christopher Purves as Walt Disney in the opera 'The Perfect American' by US composer Philip Glass.

 The Perfect American, has received favourable reviews from the Spanish press after its world premiere at Madrid's Teatro Real.
The new work by the acclaimed 75-year-old American composer concentrates on the final years of Disney's life, as he lay dying of lung cancer while planning to have his body frozen. The opera portrays Disney as a megalomaniac, sympathetic to Senator Joe McCarthy's anti-communist witch hunt and having racist and misogynist tendencies. Disney died on December 15th 1966 in Burbank, California.

Ruben Amon, critic of Spanish conservative daily El Mundo, says Disney - portrayed by the acclaimed British baritone Christopher Purves

The opera, which includes dialogue between Disney and Abraham Lincoln, will move from Madrid's Teatro Real to London later in June for performances at the English National Opera (ENO), with soprano Janis Kelly playing the role of Disney's nurse.


The new opera is based on a fictionalised account of working at Disney's cartoon factory written by Peter Stephan Jungk in 2005 but the production is not allowed to show any of the characters that made Disney a household name - such as Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck or Pluto - because the global entertainment corporation has reportedly denied the rights.

LA Times reviewer Richard Schickel called the book a "partially successful fiction ... [that asks us to] reflect on fame and its power to distort not just our perceptions of "great" men but on the way celebrity damages those men when they become possessed by their own falsified, falsifying images." Michael Barrier, animation historian and author of The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney, labelled Jungk's novel "terrible" and its author "irresponsible"; ENO confirmed that the Disney Studio will not be involved in the new production.

The mythical account will not feature Disney images or characters, but will include versions of them reimagined by director Phelim McDermott and his company, Improbable, in their distinctive visual style that made their last ENO/Glass collaboration, Satyagraha, such a success. While children over five are welcome at any of ENO's productions, artistic director John Berry has warned parents that rather than a Disney-style spoonful of sugar they should expect a more "nightmarish" vision of the iconic figure and his creations. British baritone Christopher Purves, who won acclaim as a gleefully wicked Mephistopheles in Terry Gilliam's The Damnation of Faust, will create the role of Walt Disney.

The Spanish press gave broad praise to The Perfect American. "It won a long applause. It was not rapturous, far from it. But there was not a single boo. A real success considering the heterodoxy of the work and the rigid nature of some sections of the Madrid public," said the leading daily El Pais.

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1 comment:

  1. Leave it to the shyster "composer" Phillip Glass to trash an American icon like Disney--far from a perfect individual--but who is? There is more pleasure and entertainment in ONE Disney cartoon than is in ALL the whoodly-doodly-minimalistic-musical-mush produced by Mr. Glass in his entire career!


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