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Monday, February 13, 2012

The Perfect American

James Wright, General Director
Vancouver Opera
Phillip Glass has written a new opera for the Teatro Real in Madrid: The Perfect American, based on the novel by Peter Stephan Jungk about the last months of Walt Disney’s life. The work was originally commissioned by New York City Opera during the brief time Gerard Mortier was the company’s general director. When he left in a huff over budgets before he even really got there, he apparently took this and other projects with him, including Charles Wuorinen’s Brokeback Mountain. Read a good summary of this from The Washington Post’s AP story here.

New York City Opera continues to struggle while it appears Teatro Real is forging ahead with exciting projects. It will be interesting and informative to follow these new works’ progress in Madrid and elsewhere. While The Perfect American and Brokeback Mountain are considered “American” stories, they have plots, themes and characters that give them audience appeal far beyond the US and North America. Walt Disney’s legacy is everywhere - for better or worse – and the struggles of the characters in Brokeback Mountain have struck a chord in millions of film-goers, opera lovers, and readers.

I first read the story Brokeback Mountain in the New Yorker magazine when it was first published in 1997; it is in author Annie Proulx’s collection of short stories, Close Range: Wyoming Stories (Scribner, 1999). I’m a big fan of hers, and especially of her short fiction set in Wyoming: Close Range and Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 (Scribner). Here’s an interesting interview with Annie Proulx from the LA Times in 1998.

City Opera Vancouver’s website states “City Opera Vancouver is making plans to give the world premiere of Brokeback Mountain in 2015. This will be the unique chamber version….”. I am somewhat familiar with Wuorinen’s music and while I know Glass’s work I don’t know anything particular to The Perfect American. I look forward to learning a lot more about each of these new works.

- James Wright
General Director, Vancouver Opera
@jwwright61

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