Entertainment » Music

The Perfect American

by Steven Bergman
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Dec 23, 2013
The Perfect American

Walt Disney is in vogue this year. Not the films or theme parks that bare his moniker, but the man himself. The composer Philip Glass joins the ranks of those examining the man whose name has become one of the most recognizable franchises of all time, in his 25th opera, titled "The Perfect American." The premiere performance from January of 2013 was produced at the Teatro Real in Madrid, and has been recorded and released on Blu-Ray by Opus Arte.

Christopher Purves portrays the businessman in Glass' work (with a libretto by Rudy Wurlitzer), as the legendary figure in his last days of life who is dying from cancer. Disney is shown for his complexities and dichotomies; at times the idealist searching to create a mythical land, where magic exists and the word "die" is never spoken, and other times the egotist who is incapable of, in his own words, "calming down," in order to do whatever is necessary to make sure his successful entertainment conglomerate exists forever.

The piece shows Walt's superior relationship over his older brother, Roy (whose weakness is effectively shown by David Pittsinger), as well as his ignorance towards his wife and daughters. His is primarily a solitary existence, where the dominant basis for Disneyland is the past memory of the men's hometown of Marceline, Missouri.

Glass, now well into his seventies, continues to compose scores of interest, with the obligatory nod to his minimalist roots. The orchestra is in the guiding hands of frequent Glass conductor, Dennis Russell Davies. This opera represents the latest in Glass' exploration of larger-than-life historical figures, which have included Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln, who also appears (in robotic form) in "The Perfect American," and is used to personify an antagonist to Disney's anti-civil rights views.

Leo Warner and 59 Productions deserve special mention for the innovative and striking visual effects used in the work. A combination of animated drawings superimposed over pictures remarkably contribute to the storytelling of this man who made his life from animated figures. This work is an intriguing portrait of the man behind the brand that is Disney.


"The Perfect American"
Philip Glass
Blu-Ray and DVD formats
Opus Arte

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.


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