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Peter T Chattaway

The Perfect American

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Link to our thread on the upcoming film Saving Mr. Banks, which also dramatizes (part of) Walt Disney's life.

Philip Glass's opera premiered in Madrid and has been online since February 6, though you'll apparently have to "register" to watch more than the first few minutes.

Amid Amidi @ Cartoon Brew:

The new Philip Glass opera
The Perfect American
, based on Peter Stephan Jungk’s novel of the same name, debuted on January 22 the Teatro Real in Madrid. The opera, which was inspired by unflattering myths and half-truths about Walt Disney, has received mostly mild reviews in publications like the
and
, though the
was enthusiastic. Spanish daily
El Pais
reports that crowds have been respectful if not ecstatic: “It won a long applause. It was not rapturous, far from it. But there was not a single boo.” . . .

Michael Barrier:

Like the Peter Stephan Jungk novel on which the opera is based, Rudy Wurlitzer's libretto for
The Perfect American
is insanely stupid, but it's hardly the first opera of which that can be said. The basic idea, as so often with efforts to diminish Walt Disney, is that just about everything he did and said was the product of a neurotic obsession, a bogus idea that permeates even an ostensibly sympathetic biography like Neal Gabler's. (He loved trains? How bizarre! He must have been sick in the head!) And so we have Walt, a man whose warm feelings for animals were evident whenever he was photographed around them—in all the photos and film I've seen, he is smiling and unmistakably happy—not just regretting the childhood incident in which he panicked and killed an owl, but haunted by it for the rest of his life. And there is of course Walt the tyrannical boss, reducing his employees to interchangeable ciphers (here wearing eyeshades and identical plaid clothing) and depriving them of credit for their work. There's the Walt who wants to be cryogenically frozen; there's Walt the bigot, telling the audio-animatronic Abe Lincoln that maybe he went overboard with that equality business. There's even Walt the philanderer, carrying on a most unlikely romance with Hazel George, the studio nurse.

It's tempting to shrug off this absurd opera, which will of course be seen by a total audience much smaller than any that ever saw a popular Disney film, much less visited Disneyland in a single week. The problem is that the opera will be seen by precisely that educated, sophisticated audience that is already disposed to look down on Walt and his works, and that will find its prejudices reinforced and validated by
The Perfect American.
For proof, you need look no further than the February 1 issue of
Time
, and its three-page feature article about Glass and
The Perfect American
. . . .

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