Acclaimed composer and pianist Phillip Glass (photo courtesy of the Associated Press).
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
Chicago Opera Theater (COT) will present The Perfect American, a Chicago premiere opera by American composer Philip Glass at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance this spring. Based on American novelist Peter Stephan Jungk’s 2001 novel, “Der König von Amerika,” Glass’ opera imagines the last three months of Walt Disney’s life and will be staged by renowned opera, theater and film director Kevin Newbury and conducted by COT’s artistic director, Andreas Mitisek.
“When I started out, people thought I was going to laugh at him,” Glass said recently in an interview with The Guardian. “But I see Walt Disney as an icon of modernity, a man able to build bridges between highbrow culture and popular culture; just like Leonard Bernstein, who could jump from a Broadway musical to a Mahler cycle.”
Shuffling between the dreary present and memories of Disney’s upbringing, Glass’ opera fills in the spaces where the known facts end. As Disney is haunted by his own mortality and growing empire, Glass shows there is more to this icon than simply making dreams come true. With appearances by Abraham Lincoln, Andy Warhol and Disney’s family, the whirlwind opera is a poetic and tragic story of the American Dream.
The cast of The Perfect American includes Justin Ryan (Hopper in Hopper’s Wife, New York City Opera) as Walt Disney, Zeffin Quinn Hollis (John Proctor in The Crucible, Dicapo Opera Theatre) as Roy Disney, Scott Ramsay (Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Lyric Opera of Chicago) as Wilhelm Dantine, Suzan Hanson (Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, Chicago Opera Theater) as Lillian Disney, and Alexandra Martinez-Turano (Helena in The Fairy Queen, Chicago Opera Theater) as Sharon Disney. The production will also feature the Apollo Chorus.
Chicago Opera Theater will also host its Annual Gala and End of the Season Celebration at the Harris Theater following the final performance of “The Perfect American.” A champagne reception, a VIP cocktail reception, enjoyable performances and exciting silent auction prizes are all to be expected. Chicago Opera Theater will be honoring James Ginsburg of Cedille Records. Gala dinner tickets are available now at chicagooperatheater.org.
Performances for The Perfect American take place 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 22 and 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 30. Tickets can be purchased by calling 312.704.8414 or by visiting chicagooperatheater.org.