Glass: The Perfect American [Chrisopher Purves, David Pittsinger, Donald Kaasch] [Opus Arte: OA1117D] 
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The last days of the American icon Walt Disney form a powerful and poignant subject for Philip Glass's latest opera, which was filmed at its first performances in Madrid in January 2013. Phelim McDermott's spectacular production is worthy of Disney's own visual imagination and its definitive influence on American culture, while in the pit is the conductor Dennis Russell Davies, an experienced and authoritative champion of the composer's hypnotically beautiful music, which gives wings to Rudy Wurlitzer's operatic transformation of Peter Stephan Jungk's novel, using both fact and fiction to peer into Disney's troubled psyche as illness forces him to confront his mortality.
" ... one of the crowning events of the past year's globe-trotting celebration of Mr. Glass's 75th birthday. The subtle, moody score, at war between its propulsive and serene impulses, felt more than equal in quality to the festive occasion. While criticisms of Mr. Glass's music as cookie-cutter have always been misguided, “The Perfect American” finds him in especially unpredictable form, experimenting with sonorities, textures and pacing.
Led by the Glass veteran Dennis Russell Davies with careful attention to both its underlying pulse and its twists of temperament, the opera opens with an ominous, low murmur punctuated by sharp, syncopated percussion snaps. The sound gradually expands through the orchestra and warms into something that, under Mr. Davies, has more gentle swing than the relentless forward motion generally associated with Mr. Glass. " (The New York Times)
"Baritone Christopher Purves has captured in Disney the charisma, arrogance and humanity of the man, and it's already a candidate for one of the most important opera performances of the year. He makes racist or anti-Semitic remarks sound not like tirades but like attitudes that were all too common at the time, especially around Los Angeles. One of the points of "The Perfect American" is to show us how much times have changed.
The rest of the mostly excellent large cast includes David Pittsinger as Roy Disney, Donald Kaasch as Dantine, Janis Kelly as Disney's nurse Hazel George, Marie McLaughlin as his wife, Lillian, and John Easterlin as Warhol. Rosie Lomas made a strong impression in the high-lying parts of the owl-girl Lucy and Josh, the boy in the hospital. And Zachary James had a touch of Daniel Day-Lewis in his Lincoln.
Dennis Russell Davies, who has led the premieres of most of Glass' operas and symphonies, once more made sure of tone and detail." (Los Angeles Times)
"The score is pleasant, easy to listen to, and masterfully orchestrated. There are plenty outstanding passages which perfectly meets one's expectations… it is one of Glass’ very best operas. Phelim McDermott's production ... is excellent. Dennis Russell Davies ... gave a wholly convincing interpretation ...The orchestra of the Teatro Real played along excellently and the performance from the chorus was top notch." (Seen and Heard International)
CastChristopher Purves (Walt Disney)David Pittsinger (Roy Disney)Donald Kaasch (Dantine)Janis Kelly (Hazel George)Marie McLaughlin (Lillian Disney)Sarah Tynan (Sharon)
Chorus & Orchestra of Teatro Real, Madrid; Dennis Russell DaviesStage Director: Phelim McDermott
Catalogue Number: OA1117DDate of Performance: 2013Running Time: 120 minutesAspect Ratio: 16:9 AnamorphicLabel: Opus Arte
Christopher Purves impressively conveys the complex and ultimately flawed character of Walt.Opus Arte's production is excellent and brings The Perfect American- such as it is very vividly to life. --Gramophone, Jan'14
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Glass's music is what it is; the opera is theatrically sophisticated but musically simple, though his writing for the voice has become more fluid. Phelim McDermott's production is inadequate, since staging this sort of work in a realistic style (though the computerized projections are slightly interesting) is sowing the seeds of ennui. The cast is fine, as is the conducting of Dennis Russell Davies.
I grew up on Disney (seen Fantasia 14 times). Bambi and Dumbo were my favorites. But as I grew up and got to know the man behind the cartoon characters, my relationship both with Disney and his empire went quietly sour. I do agree with the view presented in this opera: racism, homophobia, misogyny, contempt for the working man . . . all of the hallmarks of advanced capitalism are part and parcel of the Disney world view. So I was kind of prepared when, after watching this performance, I went for the reviews. they all sounded like the reviewer who gave a 1 to this record. I have a feeling poor Glass will never see his opera performed in this country (though it should be required viewing for members of Disney's party).
As to the performance, the staging was simply superb, a surreal, fantasmagoric setting quite in harmony with the material. The singers were extremely good and committed. The problem, for me, lies with a prosaic libretto that does not allow the public access to a transcendent experience. Moreover, it drives the score, bogging it down and not permitting the composer any musical flights whatsoever.
All in all, a searing experience, particularly for anyone with a social conscience and a critical view of the so-called "American Dream". It is another sign that American opera in the XXIth Century is quite willing to go where angels fear to tread. A must have.