Philip Glass Asked To Compose Opera About Walt Disney

Philip Glass is one of those composers that I have had my ups and downs with over the years.  So when I recently discovered that Glass has been commissioned by New York City Opera to compose an opera that imagines the final months in the life of Walt Disney, I was both confused and intrigued all at once. The opera will be based on The Perfect American, a recent novel by Peter Stephan Jungk. The story is about a fictional Austrian cartoonist who worked for Disney in the 1940s-50s who recounts the story of the legendary founder of The Walt Disney Co.

The premise of the opera sounds very intriguing.  However, I am rather curious about Glass composing the opera.  There is no doubt that Glass has written some amazing works.  In particular, I have enjoyed the music he has written for films such as Kundun, Notes On A Scandal, and Secret Window.  I also really enjoy his Violin Concerto and some of his piano music.  On the other hand, I have also heard material that is mundane and fails to deliver.  Glass is one of those composers that is considered “required listening” when attending music school.  So I had my fair share of being forced to listen to his music and the dreadful first opera, Einstein on the Beach.   I know it broke the concepts and molds of what opera stood for as a genre, but just getting past the first 15 minutes is nauseating.

Glass will certainly draw an audience, but his minimalistic compositional style may not be a good choice for bringing to life Walt Disney.  What might have been a more interesting choice is selecting the likes of John Adams, John Corigliano or Michael Daugherty – all American composers, each with distinct styles of composition.  Of course, George Crumb would likely compose something really interesting, but it may not be as accessible for a typical American audience.  Oh well, I guess we will all find out soon enough how this all turns out.

The new opera will open City Opera’s 2012-2013 season and honor the composer’s 75th birthday, City Opera’s incoming General Manager Gerard Mortier announced Monday.

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One comment on “Philip Glass Asked To Compose Opera About Walt Disney
  1. I love the Violin Concerto as well, and have wondered why more “big name” violinists haven’t recorded it. I like his solo piano works too (Metamorphosis, etc.), but haven’t ventured into his larger works. I’m a beginning violinist, so I’m still slowly working my way into classical music, and I haven’t been able to deal with most contemporary composers yet. I’m still working on Bach!

    Philip Glass+opera+Disney=???????

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