Cher Public

E il sol dell’animator

Something contemporary for the cher public: starting at 2:00 PM on Wednesday, the new Philip Glass opera The Perfect American, webcast from the Teatro Real, Madrid.  

The Perfect American is a fictionalized biography of Walt Disney‘s final months. We discover Walt’s delusions of immortality via cryogenic preservation, his tirades alongside his Abraham Lincoln talking robot, his utopian visions and his backyard labyrinth of toy trains. . . .  Walt’s wife Lillian, his confidante and perhaps his mistress Hazel, his brother Roy, his children Diane and Sharon, his close and ill-treated collaborators, and famous figures such as Andy Warhol, all contribute to the opera’s animation, its feel for the life of the Disney world.”

  • OperaTeen

    So many things to think about for this opera-having not heard it yet-but so few thoughts(If that makes sense. Probably not.) I hope someone puts it online because Wednesday is a pretty random day to internationally broadcast something… ;-)

    • A. Poggia Turra

      Tomorrow’s performance is the final performance of the run -- it’s possible they purposely wanted the cast and production team to “get all the kinks out” before committing the opera to video. IIRC the Royal Opera did the same with ‘Anna Nicole’, televising and recording one of the last performances of the run.

      BTW, I noticed the EuroArts logo on one of the Teatro Real pages -- I think (hope) that this indicates that a DVD / BluRay will be forthcoming.

      • derschatzgabber

        Based on the first run of Appomattox in San Francisco, it makes sense to record one of the last performances of the run of a new Philip Glass opera. He was making edits to Appomattox throughout much of the run, and the final performance was about 10 minutes shorter than opening night. The edits improved the opera. Even with the edits, it wasn’t one of my favorite Glass operas. But it had enough of interest to keep me coming back through the run. If do hope this results in a DVD.

    • The webcast will be on Medici TV and those often stay up for one or two months —!/the-perfect-american-philip-glass-teatro-real-world-premiere

      • A. Poggia Turra

        The stream will be available for the next 88 days :)

      • papopera

        Well, at least there’s a contrabass clarinet in it. The rest is just pfffffffffftttt

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    I was just listening to a recording of this new Philip Glass opera and it’s interesting to hear how Glass has matured. The part for the wood block is realy quirky and the music is much easier to follow than many of the complicated pages of his earlier operas. A lot of it sounds like good John Adams! Looking forward to the video stream.

    • ianw2

      Yes, it got cautiously positive reviews so I’m curious as well. Apparently the music has taken a more reflective turn.

  • Satisfied

    I just saw this performance last night in Madrid and was simply amazed: a joyous combination of music, libretto, and production. Glass does not tread new ground with this piece, but it could possibly be his most enjoyable work to date (both subject matter and composition). I had begun writing a piece for this lovely blog — it just seems no longer necessary now that the cher public has the opportunity to hear and see The Perfect American (and most certainly should!). Bravi to all involved, not least of which librettist Rudy Wurlitzer (working from Peter Stephan Jungk’s trite novela “Der Konig Von Amerika”) and the incomparable production team of Dennis Russell Davis and Phelim McDermott!

    I don’t quite see how, this being a production of Teatro Real Madrid and ENO, but I would simply love to see this production shown in New York. I believe it would be rapturously received by critics and audiences alike.

    • ianw2

      Didn’t potential legal issues prevent Anna Nicole going to San Francisco or was that a smokescreen for Gockley just not liking the work? Or was that whole thing nothing but scuttlebutt?

      Considering the lengths the Disney family and company have gone to shield any scrutiny of Walt, I’d be interested to see (legal parterriat put on your wigs!) how it would pan out in the US.

      • Talk of the Town

        I’m no expert, and I haven’t seen the production, but I’m not sure there’s much Disney could do, legally speaking.

        I’m given to understand from the reviews that there are no actual Disney characters in the opera, so there is likely no copyright or trademark infringement.

        You can’t slander the dead. (If the show commented negatively, and falsely, on the Disney corporation, that would be another story.)

        And you’d only need to buy rights from Disney’s heirs or Disney Co if you wanted them to assist you in some way or if you wanted to base your production on a book that he or the corporation had written. (I think the libretto is actually based on a German novel, so obviously the cooperation of that author needed to be secured.)

        • redbear

          It actually was a slander of the dead. You learn nothing about Disney except that he was a dull arch-conservative. You want great Glass, download his chamber opera “Les Enfants Terribles”

          • whatever

            Not to be a pedant, but the dead cant be slandered; at least in the US, the cause of action dies with the defamed.

            Of course, Americans can sue anytime, anyplace and for any reason (lawyers don’t sue people … People sue people), but that’s the black-letter law, anyway.

      • Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t the Disney corporation and the heirs actually cooperated in this production?

    • A. Poggia Turra

      I found it interesting how the novella served as a foundation for the eventual libretto -- much as was done when Glass and David Henry Hwang used the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ journey as a base from which to examine the theme of exploration.

      I was struck by how the female characters were marginalized in the opera vs the book, and also I though that Lucy/owl interaction(s) were not given sufficient importance and focus.

      Even with those caveats, I loved the music and I urge all to watch and listen.

  • toitoitoi

    This is of course fiction, or faction if you prefer -- and is it me, or is it all recit?

  • DonCarloFanatic

    Listening now. Liking the music. Not understanding why Walt’s suit jacket wasn’t tailored to fit right. A last-minute replacement?

  • La Valkyrietta

    I’m watching this. They are on intermission. I will not interrupt and play Judy, or is it Eartha?, in that monotonous song, and watch it to the end, but It ain’t Trovatore, that’s for sure. :)

  • DonCarloFanatic

    Here’s something I don’t like. The animators are all dressed like clerks. It would be visually closer to the truth if they were in obvious uniforms, like lab coats or mechanics’ work-suits, but wore different clothes under them, i.e., forced into uniformity, but still people of creative talent underneath. I suggest lab coats because there were plenty of people thrilled to be part of the burgeoning Disney success story, to be company men.

    None of the choral singing is clear. Nor are most of the women’s voices.

    • Satisfied

      “None of the choral singing is clear. Nor are most of the women’s voices.”

      I was third row center for this performance — the choral singing was no better in the house. The Met Chorus -- on the other hand -- would blow this out of the park!

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    watched from the X-Ray to the end… even though it is beautifully performed, I’m very bored by most of it .

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Wikipedia: “On November 30, Disney collapsed at his home. He was revived by fire department personnel and rushed to St. Joseph’s where on December 15, 1966, at 9:30 am, ten days after his 65th birthday, Disney died of acute circulatory collapse, caused by lung cancer. The last thing he reportedly wrote before his death was the name of actor Kurt Russell, the significance of which remains a mystery, even to Russell.”

  • Batty Masetto

    I only caught the second act but found it quite moving. Agree about the incomprehensible chorus and women’s voices, but the men and the “boy” had superb diction. Didn’t find it dull at all.

  • toitoitoi

    Animators just dressed like regular guys; like college teachers. Short-sleeve shirts, slacks, maybe a tie. No uniforms, no lab coats. Very, very few women.

    • DonCarloFanatic

      Disney’s animators dressed in the standard attire of the office worker of the day. But since Glass et al. have put the animators in uniforms, it’s worthwhile to mention that they’ve done it backwards and in a slighting manner. The attempt to unionize was not a revolt of talentless clerks, but of superbly talented individuals who wanted their work toward a common creative goal to be recognized with more than a salary or piecework pay. It didn’t happen.

      • Batty Masetto

        What I got from my half of the production was that the animators were rendered faceless by the Disney machine, not that they were that way personally.

  • antikitschychick

    just finished watching the entire webcast via the medici site and I have to say, overall I really, really liked it. The music itself I thought was superb, better than Satyagraha (which for me is saying a lot since I loved Satyagraha) I thought and the production was very good too, at least on video it was very theatrical. The male principals were all very good, but I agree it sucks the female parts were marginalized… my biggest complaint though is that the chorus was indeed unintelligible from beginning to end and that detracted from the overall performance since there were a lot of choral pieces/recitatives and I had no idea what they fuck they were saying which was frustrating but, can ya do?

    Having said all that, I can totally see why it would be a problem getting this shown in America as Glass does not paint Disney in any positive light whatsoever, though I can also understand, given my own lack of knowledge or insight into Walt Disney “the man”, why Glass wanted to emphatically present the more flawed aspects of the character, as they do make for better theater: it is much more self-reflexive than many an Opera and I applaud him for that. Also, it gives the viewer/listener much to ponder about.