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When Walt Met Peter Met Abe Met Andy Met Philip: "The Perfect American"
February 6, 2013 8:08 AM   Subscribe

"Disney goes to Anaheim late at night to help repair the animatronic Disneyland Lincoln, which has been malfunctioning and attacking members of the audience. Disney gets in an argument with the robot about blacks, and Lincoln goes crazy again and whacks Walt...." (source). Starting today at 2 PM Eastern time (just under 3 hours from now) and for the next 90 days, medici.tv will stream, free of charge, Teatro Real's January 22 premiere performance of the new Philip Glass opera The Perfect American. It's based on the novel of the same name by Peter Stephan Jungk, which the NY Times called "a surreal, meditative, episodic account of the last days of Walt Disney." Four minute preview video. ENO rehearsal trailer. (Happy belated 76th, Mr. Glass.)

The LA Times: "Glass delves deep into the psyche of a visionary at the end of his life, of an artist who devoted his life to a vision of a world without death, now grappling with mortality. By most counts this is Glass' 24th opera, and it is his most personally intimate. It does what opera does best by making the larger-than-life creator of Mickey Mouse an imperfect life-size, ultimately earning our wonderment."

Opera News on the premiere.

NY Times gives a more mixed review: loves the music, has some words for the libretto.

Interview with Glass, including opera excerpts, from BBC's The Strand. (Audio plays in Canada, hopefully for the rest of you, too.).

Previous post about medici.tv .

Yes, there's a hashtag: #ENOAmerican
posted by maudlin (21 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
I always love Philip Glass's music. The words, less so. Usually much less so.
posted by SPUTNIK at 8:42 AM on February 6, 2013


There are a lot of Disney fanatics who are getting up in arms about this based on YouTube comments, not that those truly mean anything.

What bugged me about the NY Times review, or any review of Glass's music, is how they try to find ways to get around saying that the music sounds like every other piece of Glass's music written after Koyanisqaatsi. Seriously, stick a fork in him. Every single bit of music in this production could be carbon-copied onto any other opera or symphony or commercial jingle that Glass is writing now. That idiot Zach Woolfe at the Times has a hard-on for this guy and gives softball reviews to so many crap composers. I really can't wait to see what the British music critics think. At least they don't suck up to EVERYONE.
posted by ReeMonster at 8:43 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


And have you got anything to add since the last thread about him?
posted by ardgedee at 9:03 AM on February 6, 2013


that the music sounds like every other piece of Glass's music written after Koyanisqaatsi.

Violently disagree.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:10 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh gosh, I was going to use Glassworks which I was under the misapprehension of a work commissioned for a ballet (although is was wonderful dance music) to refute ReeMonster, but it was composed a year before the Koyanisqaatsi score.
posted by sammyo at 9:21 AM on February 6, 2013


SIGH. Comments like ReeMonster's are why I mostly stay out of music threads--and I'm a professional musician and often love the conversations that happen about music on the blue. Just because one thinks a particular composer's music isn't much good these days or whatever doesn't mean that music isn't worth liking or that other people are wrong for liking it. And there are certainly more polite (and less conversation-killing) ways to express one's dislike for a particular composer's music than by calling it all crap and anyone who likes it an idiot. (And on that account, a lot of people who are really smart and really good professional musicians--with books and awards and major careers and stuff--have a differing opinions about Glass, ReeMonster, so a little humility in your artistic judgments is maybe warranted.)

But what kind of conversation can really result after someone shits on a thread by calling the composer and work(s) it's about crap and someone who likes it an idiot? The only times I've embarrassed myself on this site are when I get angry about dismissive comments like that (IIRC, I lost it beautifully in one of the early Cage arguments a few years ago), and I don't like feeling or behaving that way. So I stay away.

This morning, feeling optimistic, I clicked through to this thread only to see it had been stopped cold, two comments in. Because no discussion about concert music at all is better than any discussion that doesn't follow the Proper Taste in Contemporary Classical Music, apparently.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:24 AM on February 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


Thanks so much for this!

EDIT: Man he looks good for 76.
posted by Eyebeams at 9:30 AM on February 6, 2013


Also, sidebar: ReeMonster, I notice that you've only made 3 posts on the blue and none are about music. Clicking through to your web page, you look like a really interesting musician (and the entrepreneurial ensembles you're involved in are exactly the kinds of groups I like to bring to my campus for residencies), I'd like to challenge you to make a couple of posts centering on some contemporary concert music you think is more worth talking about. If the Glass post is no good, or you think we're wasting our time talking about his music, give us something better to consider!
posted by LooseFilter at 9:33 AM on February 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hey I'm not the only professional musician who isn't into NYTimes classical criticism these days. And it's just my opinion. If you feel Glass's music is strikingly original with every new opera or symphony, please voice your opinion and say why, not just that you "love him." Explain how another piece full of off-beats on a woodblock, propulsive tambourine, string arpeggios, melodramatic melodies in the winds, oscillating minor thirds and chiaroscuro harmony brings anything new to the table.

And I apologize for seeming to shit on the thread. Instead of complaining about my opinion, just offer your own. Believe it or not I'm open to thought-out opinions, not fluff writing at the NYTimes which is what my original comment was more talking about.

Loose, thanks for the kind words and I have been meaning to do some music posts. Perhaps this weekend when I have free time.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:35 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a huge Phillip Glass fan but I tend to agree with ReeMonster's assessment that his recent work all kind of sounds the same. Not the end of the world, but it is a bit of a letdown.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:51 AM on February 6, 2013





SIGH. Comments like ReeMonster's are why I mostly stay out of music threads--and I'm a professional musician and often love the conversations that happen about music on the blue. Just because one thinks a particular composer's music isn't much good these days or whatever doesn't mean that music isn't worth liking or that other people are wrong for liking it. And there are certainly more polite (and less conversation-killing) ways to express one's dislike for a particular composer's music than by calling it all crap and anyone who likes it an idiot. (And on that account, a lot of people who are really smart and really good professional musicians--with books and awards and major careers and stuff--have a differing opinions about Glass, ReeMonster, so a little humility in your artistic judgments is maybe warranted.)

But what kind of conversation can really result after someone shits on a thread by calling the composer and work(s) it's about crap and someone who likes it an idiot? The only times I've embarrassed myself on this site are when I get angry about dismissive comments like that (IIRC, I lost it beautifully in one of the early Cage arguments a few years ago), and I don't like feeling or behaving that way. So I stay away.

This morning, feeling optimistic, I clicked through to this thread only to see it had been stopped cold, two comments in. Because no discussion about concert music at all is better than any discussion that doesn't follow the Proper Taste in Contemporary Classical Music, apparently.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:24 AM on February 6


You can apply this logic to every single damn conversation that happens here, or on the wider internet. It is incredibly disheartening, I agree.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:00 AM on February 6, 2013


Just in case anyone wants to actually watch the opera, and maybe discuss it later, it's starting in a few minutes. The stream is live.
posted by maudlin at 10:55 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know it shouldn't matter, but my brain still has a disconnect whenever I hear an opera sung in English. Maybe it's patrician Eurocentrism rearing it's ugly head, or maybe the more modern American operas I've seen (Nixon in China, now streaming this one) tend to work more casual conversation, or at least modern idiom and phrasing, into the lyrics and that's what is bothering me as being trite.
posted by thecjm at 11:26 AM on February 6, 2013


"At least Mickey and Donald are immortal, like Moses, Zues, or Jesus."
posted by thecjm at 11:28 AM on February 6, 2013


My favorite Philip Glass story is that when I was working on the premiere of one of his operas, the director wanted to cut a section of the music. Both the director and I were really nervous because most composers don't easily accept cuts, especially since it was late in the process and we were already in rehearsals. At a morning meeting, we met with Philip, the two of us tense and sweating, and proposed the cut. He smiled and sat back in his chair, and said, "It's fine to cut that section. It tends to repeat itself."
posted by geryon at 11:50 AM on February 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am half listening and watching while working and really enjoying this thus far. I will definitely go back and stream this again when I have the time to pay attention.
posted by mountmccabe at 12:22 PM on February 6, 2013


I've long held that the original Pirates of the Caribbean ride, the last creative project Walt had direct involvement in, is best understood as a paranoid fantasia on the 1960s in America. That's not Port Royal burning; it's Watts and Washington DC.
posted by mwhybark at 12:35 PM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


"There's one name being sold here and it isn't yours" was my favorite line from the first act, Roy singing to Dantine.

The "I have an army of followers that do my bidding" bit from Warhol was quite interesting but if that character didn't look like Warhol I never would have guessed; he wasn't very Warholian.

After that, though, the 2nd act has been wonderful. The bit that starts with Walt's "If I could only have my way" starts an amazing section.
posted by mountmccabe at 12:56 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess I really don't see much similarity between Glass' scores for Kundun (1997), The Hours (2002), his chamber opera Hydrogen Jukebox (1990) and Songs From Liquid Days (1986), all of which were composed after Koyaanisqatsi (1982)...

But I can't claim any sort of overriding familiarity with the giant catalog of work which Glass has composed across the decades, so perhaps I'm doing it wrong.

This is an excellent post, and I'm looking forward to devoting some time listening to this. Thanks so much!
posted by hippybear at 4:23 PM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think we're all bozos on this bus.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:27 PM on February 6, 2013


There are some masterful temporal manipulations in this, and the orchestration brings out strongly compelling textures at several key moments. As for the production, it seems very well shot and prepared for the web. I do not find the libretto wanting as the nytimes critic does, but I am willing to believe that I lack the imagination to think of how it could have been better. I love the slow motion stage movement and the projections, too.

My only complaint is that the death scene was rather sterile, although it was a useful contrast to the grandiose farewell. Perhaps it should be so ordinary given the context.
posted by zangpo at 8:23 PM on February 6, 2013


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