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Life of Walt Disney Chosen as Philip Glass NYC Opera Commission

Following a meeting of New York City Opera's Board of Directors, Gerard Mortier, General Manager Designate today announced that City Opera is commissioning Philip Glass to compose a new opera, The Perfect American which imaginatively explores the life and career of Walt Disney. Based on the recent novel Der König von Amerika (translated into English as The Perfect American) by Peter Stephan Jungk, the opera, presented in collaboration with Improbable, is scheduled to open City Opera's 2012-2013 season.

The world premiere of this work, the 24th opera by Philip Glass, will honor the 75th birthday of the distinguished composer, whose association with City Opera dates back to the 1980s, when the company presented the New York premiere of his Akhnaten and recorded his Satyagraha.

Mr. Mortier has also scheduled a Philip Glass work for his inaugural 2009-2010 season when City Opera will present the landmark opera Einstein on the Beach. This will be the first staged production of the work in New York since 1992, reuniting director and co-creator Robert Wilson with the Philip Glass Ensemble and the Lucinda Childs Dance Company. Einstein on the Beach will be City Opera's first production in the newly refurbished New York State Theater, to be re-named the David H. Koch Theater.

Peter Stephan Jungk's novel The Perfect American imagines the final months of Walt Disney's life as recounted by the fictional Austrian cartoonist Wilhelm Dantine, who worked for Disney in the 1940s and 50s. Through the prism of Dantine's European sensibility, and his feelings of admiration and resentment toward his boss, the novel presents a multilayered image of the mid-20th-century American dream.

"The story of the last days of Walt Disney, American Icon and creator of perhaps the most pervasive fantasy world on our planet, is surprisingly gripping and at times disturbing. But, on the face of it, how could it be anything else? The pulse of his life has to be the pulse of our own American culture. And, like other aspects of life here, it is unimaginable, alarming, and truly frightening. I am looking forward to beginning these collaborations with Gerard Mortier at the New York City Opera," stated Philip Glass.

Philip Glass
Widely acknowledged to be one of the most influential artists of his time, Philip Glass has composed epoch-making music for the opera house, concert hall, dance and theater stage, film screen and pop-music recording studio and has collaborated with artists ranging from Twyla Tharp, Doris Lessing and Errol Morris to David Bowie, Yo-Yo Ma and Allen Ginsberg. Born in 1937, he grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, attended the University of Chicago and the Juilliard School and studied in Aspen with Darius Milhaud. He continued his studies in Europe with the legendary Nadia Boulanger and the renowned sitar virtuoso and composer Ravi Shankar, then returned to the United States in 1967 to form the Philip Glass Ensemble, based in New York. With the premiere of Einstein on the Beach (1976) and the Godfrey Reggio motion picture Koyaanisqatsi (1982), he established a new era in music for both opera and film, while becoming the most celebrated composer of his generation. He continues to appear regularly with the Philip Glass Ensemble and to present lectures, workshops, and solo keyboard performances around the world.

Peter Stephan Jungk
Peter Stephan Jungk is an American-born novelist who writes in German. He was born in Los Angeles, raised in several European cities and now lives in Paris. A former screenwriting fellow of the American Film Institute, he is the author of eight books, including the acclaimed biography Franz Werfel: A Life from Prague to Hollywood (1990) and the novels Tigor (Handsel Books, 2004) and The Perfect American (Handsel Books, 2004). His newest novel Crossing the Hudson will be published in the United States in March 2009. Mr. Jungk also directs documentaries, with his most recent project "A Bridge Between Two Worlds" on André Previn.

New York City Opera
Since its founding in 1943, New York City Opera has been recognized as one of America's preeminent cultural institutions, celebrated for its adventurous programming and innovative, risk-taking production style. The company's wide-ranging repertory of 269 works spans five centuries of music and includes 29 world premieres and 61 American and/or New York premieres of such notable works as Béla Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle, Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shostakovich's Katerina Ismailova, Ferruccio Busoni's Doktor Faust, Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges and The Flaming Angel, Zimmermann's Die Soldaten, Arnold Schoenberg's Moses und Aron, and Philip Glass's Akhnaten. The company has been a leading showcase for young artists, having helped launch the careers of more than 3,000 singers including José Carreras, Phyllis Curtin, David Daniels, Plácido Domingo, Lauren Flanigan, Renée Fleming, Elizabeth Futral, Jerry Hadley, Catherine Malfitano, Bejun Mehta, Sherrill Milnes, Samuel Ramey, Gianna Rolandi, Beverly Sills, Norman Treigle, Tatiana Troyanos, and Carol Vaness.

Gerard Mortier
Currently Director of the Opéra National de Paris, Gerard Mortier will become City Opera's eighth General Manager and Artistic Director in 2009-2010. Renowned for his ground-breaking tenures at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, the Ruhr Triennial Festival, and the Salzburg Festival, Gerard Mortier will lead City Opera boldly into a new era of artistic achievement and distinction. Building on the company's core mission of artistic excellence and accessibility, his plans include broadening the company's geographic reach through performances in venues across New York City and a launch of major new education and outreach programs designed to ensure that all New Yorkers have the opportunity to attend live performances of opera.

New York State Theater Renovations
New York City Opera and New York City Ballet have undertaken a $200 million capital campaign-the first such joint venture in the companies' histories-to enhance audience amenities and provide a state-of-the-art environment for productions at their shared home, the New York State Theater. In July 2008 the Ballet and Opera announced their intention to rename the New York State Theater in honor of a lead gift to the capital campaign by David H. Koch. The name change will take effect in autumn 2008.

Founded by Lee Simpson, Phelim McDermott, Julian Crouch and producer Nick Sweeting in 1996, Improbable has established an international reputation for innovative, exciting, accessible theatre with shows including 70 Hill Lane, Animo, Lifegame, Cinderella, Coma, Spirit, Sticky, The Hanging Man, Theatre of Blood, Stars Are Out Tonight and The Wolves In The Walls. They first collaborated with Philip Glass on Satygraha at the English National Opera and The Metropolitan Opera. Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch were co-creators of the West End and off-Broadway hit Shockheaded Peter.

For more information on the New York City Opera, visit


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