Kamis, 04 September 2014

Brisbane Festival: Walt Disney opera a warts and all portrayal of animation *imagineer* (ABC)

British baritone Christopher Purves plays Walt Disney in The Perfect American.ABC British baritone Christopher Purves plays Walt Disney in The Perfect American.

A fearless Philip Glass opera about the life of Walt Disney promises to be a major drawcard at this month's Brisbane Festival.

The Perfect American looks at Disney's life through a series of flashbacks from his deathbed as he grappled with his legacy.

Director Phelim McDermott said while it was a celebration of Disney, the opera did not shy away from his less-likeable character traits.

"There's a scene from which the whole idea of the opera came from, where he has a conversation with an Abraham Lincoln animatronic statue that's part of Disney World and this statue malfunctions," he said.

"He has a conversation with Lincoln about the Gettysburg address.

"He mentions aspects of race that make you go 'hmm that's kind of interesting'."

The production has only previously been seen in Madrid and London.

Sets and backdrops are the work of Australian designer Dan Potra, the man responsible for the Sydney Olympics opening ceremony.

He commissioned a large Italian-designed installation of long translucent sheets of silk used to project images.

"It's, if you like, a kind of metaphor for the way animation is being done," he said.

"The number of papers being put one on top of each other.

"Each one becomes a frame and when you run the entire sequence you get a beautiful motion."

McDermott warned that audiences would not be seeing any famous Disney characters.

"It's not really an opera about Mickey Mouse," he said.

"It's an opera about I would say Walt Disney the man and the stories you don't know about him.

"But also animation and the bits of animation that you don't see."

Disney 'had a ruthless streak'

British baritone Christopher Purves, who plays Walt Disney, said his character's title of "imagineer" was appropriate.

"You don't become a CEO of a massive organisation without having a ruthless streak," he said.

"I think there is a slightly ruthless streak that is portrayed in this opera which I think is good. I'm interested in that."

McDermott said the score was more romantic than previous works by Glass.

"There's definitely a kind of tribute there to the music of the films of that time so some of it is incredibly lush," he said.

"There's a lot of what I would say humour in the music with the percussion that I think relates to this world of cartoons and animation."

Toowoomba singer plays Walt's daughter

In her first major role, Toowoomba mezzo-soprano Jade Moffat will play Disney's daughter Diane.

"It's a huge learning experience for a young artist to be in this situation," she said.

"Everyone talks about stage presence. I now understand what stage presence means and I hope that I can learn from them."

Australian soprano Cheryl Barker plays Disney's nurse Hazel George, who was also a composer and wrote about 90 songs that were used in the Mickey Mouse Club.

"In the opera, my relationship with him is quite intimate," she said.

"It's a bit ambiguous as to whether we are lovers or not. But certainly I am his confidant."

The Perfect American will run for four shows in the QPAC Concert Hall from September 15.


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