CHICAGO – Chicago Opera Theater (COT) presents “The Perfect American,” a Chicago premiere opera by American composer Philip Glass. Based on American novelist Peter Stephan Jungk’s 2001 novel, “Der König von Amerika,” Glass’ opera imagines the last three months of Walt Disney’s life. “The Perfect American” will be staged by renowned opera, theater and film director Kevin Newbury and conducted by COT’s Artistic Director Andreas Mitisek. The opening night and press performance will take place on April 22 at 7:30 p.m. A subsequent performance will take place on April 30 at 3 p.m.
“When I started out, people thought I was going to laugh at him,” Glass said recently in an interview with The Guardian. “But I see Walt Disney as an icon of modernity, a man able to build bridges between highbrow culture and popular culture; just like Leonard Bernstein, who could jump from a Broadway musical to a Mahler cycle.”
“The Perfect American” envisions the last three months of Walt Disney. Shuffling between the dreary present and memories of his upbringing, Glass fills in the spaces where the known facts end. As Disney is haunted by his own mortality and growing empire, Glass shows there is more to this icon than simply making dreams come true. With appearances by Abraham Lincoln, Andy Warhol and Disney’s family, this whirlwind opera is a poetic and tragic story of the American Dream.
The cast of “The Perfect American” includes Justin Ryan (Hopper in “Hopper’s Wife,” New York City Opera) as Walt Disney, Zeffin Quinn Hollis (John Proctor in “The Crucible,” Dicapo Opera Theatre) as Roy Disney, Scott Ramsay (Edgardo in “Lucia di Lammermoor,” Lyric Opera of Chicago) as Wilhelm Dantine, Suzan Hanson (Lady Macbeth in “Macbeth,” Chicago Opera Theater) as Lillian Disney, Alexandra Martinez-Turano (Helena in “The Fairy Queen,” Chicago Opera Theater) as Sharon Disney, Lara Ryan (Natoma in “Natoma,” Victor Herbert Renaissance Project) as Diane Disney, Jamie Chamberlin (Cunegonde in “Candide,” Long Beach Opera) as Hazel George, Rana Ebrahimi (Olympia in “The Tales of Hoffman”) as Lucy/Josh and Kira Dills-DeSurra (Ensemble in “The Fairy Queen,” Chicago Opera Theater) as Nurse/Secretary, Kyle Knapp (Jason in “Jason and the Argonauts,” Lyric Opera of Chicago) as Andy Warhol/Doctor/Chuck and Jason Switzer (Don Magnifico in “La Cenerentola,” Lyrique-en-Mer) as Abraham Lincoln/Undertaker. The production will also feature the Apollo Chorus.
Chicago Opera Theater recognizes Season Sponsors Roger and Julie Baskes and Gregory O’Leary and Patricia Kenney; Production Sponsors Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson, Reel Captivation and Bill and Orli Staley; and the Opening Night Sponsor the COT President’s Council.
Saturday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 30 at 3 p.m.
Tickets for “The Perfect American” ($39 – $125) can be purchased by calling 312.704.8414 or by visiting chicagooperatheater.org.
Chicago Opera Theater will host its Annual Gala and End of the Season Celebration at the Harris Theater following the final performance of “The Perfect American.” A champagne reception, a VIP cocktail reception, enjoyable performances and exciting silent auction prizes are all to be expected. Chicago Opera Theater will be honoring James Ginsburg of Cedille Records. Gala dinner tickets are available now at chicagooperatheater.org.
“The Perfect American” is the final production of Chicago Opera Theater’s 2016-2017 season. COT will announce its 2017-2018 production season on April 4, 2017.
Conductor: Andreas Mitisek
Composer: Philip Glass
Stage Director: Kevin Newbury
Librettist: Rudolph Wurlitzer
Adaptation: Peter Stephan Jungk
Set/Costume Designer: Zane Pihlstrom
Lighting Designer: David Jacques
Video Designer: Sean Cawelti
Andreas Mitisek – Conductor
A native of Austria, Mitisek has led COT since 2012 and currently serves as the Stefan Edlis & Gael Neeson Artistic Director. He has also been the Artistic & General Director of Long Beach Opera since 2003, and directed two operas for New York City Opera in 2016. Mitisek was named “Chicagoan of the Year for Classical Music” by the Chicago Tribune in 2014 and was selected as one of the “25 people that will be a major force in the field of opera in the coming decade” by Opera News.
This season at COT, Mitisek directed and production designed Frank Martin’s “The Love Potion,” as well as Henry Purcell’s “The Fairy Queen.” He is also a sought after guest conductor in North America.
Philip Glass – Composer
American composer Philip Glass was born in Baltimore, Maryland where he began collecting records from his father’s record store including modern music and western classical music. At the young age 15, Glass was accepted into an accelerated college program at the University of Chicago studying Mathematics and Philosophy. Glass discovered surrealism in Chicago and a few years later attended the Julliard School of Music where he studied keyboard and composition. Now a composer of operas and symphonies, he has collaborated with artists such as Twyla Tharp, Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen and David Bowie. Along with his popular operas “Einstein on the Beach,” “Satyagraha,” “Akhnaten,” and “The Voyage,” he has also composed for theater and motion pictures including “The Hours,” “Kindun,” and “Koyaanisqatsi.” Glass has described that his music has “immersed a listener in a sort of sonic weather that twists, turns, surrounds, develops.” Considered one of the most influential music makers of the late 20th century, Glass has composed more than 25 operas, eight symphonies and two piano concertos.
Kevin Newbury – Stage Director
Kevin Newbury is an opera, theater and film director based in New York City. Newborn has directed more than 50 original productions and his work has been presented by many top opera companies, including the Park Avenue Armory, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, The Santa Fe Opera, Barcelona Liceu, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Minnesota Opera, The San Francisco Symphony, L’Opera de Montreal, Prototype Festival, Bard Summerscape, Portland Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Philadelphia Orchestra, Seattle Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, The Virginia Arts Festival and the Wexford Festival in Ireland, among many others. Newborn has directed nearly two dozen world premiere operas and plays, many of which were subsequently published or recorded. Recent highlights include “Kansas City Choir Boy” (starring Courtney Love) at Prototype (NYC), ART (Boston) and CTG (LA), and “Bel Canto” (Lyric Opera of Chicago, soon to be broadcast on PBS’ Great Performances and recently nominated for the 2016 International Opera Awards: Best World Premiere). Newborn’s two short films, “Monsura is Waiting” and “STAG” have showed at dozens of film festivals and have won several awards.
Rudolph Wurlitzer – Librettist
Rudolph “Rudy” Wurlitzer is a novelist and screenwriter based in New York and Nova Scotia. Previously with Glass, Wurlitzer wrote the libretto for “In The Penal Colony.” Novels include “Nog,” “Flats,” “Quake,” “Slow Fade” and the more recent “The Drop Edge of Yonder.” As a screenwriter, his work includes “Two-Lane Blacktop,” “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” “Walker,” “Homo Faber,” “Wind” and “Little Buddha.” He is also the author of the travel memoir “Hard Travel to Sacred Places,” and has collaborated with artists including Robert Graves, Claes Oldenburg and Robert Frank.
About Chicago Opera Theater
Chicago Opera Theater is an innovative, nationally recognized opera company that inspires a diverse community through immersive and thought-provoking opera experiences. COT, established in 1974 by Alan Stone, is a founding resident company of the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park.
Chicago Opera Theater has carved a significant place for itself in the operatic life of Chicago and has reached an audience of hundreds of thousands through its main stage performances, community engagement, education programs in Chicago Public Schools, as well as its renowned Young Artist Program.
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For more information on the Chicago Opera Theater and its programs please visit chicagooperatheater.org.