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Philip Glass To Stage Opera About Fictionalized Last Days of Walt Disney

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by Drew Taylor
April 29, 2012 1:15 PM
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Philip Glass Walt Disney

Well, time to get our plane tickets in order: next year, according to the Independent, London’s English National Opera is set to stage an opera by super genius composer Philip Glass about the fictionalized last days of Walt Disney. They’re also debuting an experimental new work by “Cloud Atlas” author David Mitchell.

The Glass piece is based on “The Perfect American,” a novel by Peter Stephan Jungk (translated by Michael Hofmann) that centered on the relationship between Walt Disney and Wilhelm Dantine, a young Danish story artist who worked on “Sleeping Beauty” and who desperately fought for Disney’s attention (as far as we can tell, Dantine is an invention of the author but undoubtedly stands in for many artists in similar situations). It’s through Dantine that you get a glimpse of some of Disney’s late-era obsessions, including the EPCOT project in Florida, and focuses on the “dark Disney” that was frequently portrayed after his death (as Neal Gabler points out in his definitive Disney biography, the man was much more complicated than just being “cuddly” or “dark,” but those shades of grey don’t interest a lot of authors or sell many books).

“The Perfect American” will be Glass’ 24th (!) opera and while the project won’t have the rights to many of Disney’s most famous creations, Glass still intends to allude to them at the very least. ENO artistic director John Berry is quoted in the Independent piece as saying, “Glass is very interested in the impact that a personality of that order has on wider culture.” Glass has said that Disney’s life, particularly towards the end, was “unimaginable, alarming and truly frightening.” So not exactly a “wonderful world” then?

In the same Independent piece they also make mention of a forthcoming libretto by David Mitchell, who wrote the cracking, confounding Russian-nesting-doll-of-a-novel “Cloud Atlas” (set to be a major motion picture this fall with Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Jim Broadbent, among others). The libretto, called “Sunken Garden,” is the author’s second libretto and will feature “an electronic music score composed by Michael van de Aa” and “will include video and 3D film.” Because of course it will.

This is very exciting news for anyone with a love of theater and opera, and should speed up our national bank robbing spree to insure that we can get there next year.

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