Simian Substitute Site For June 2013: Monkey Experience
MOSTLY FILM: For Love's Sake

MOSTLY FILM: The Perfect American

Disney (Christopher Purves) meets Lincoln (Zachary James): it's the best sequence in The Perfect American, I think.The site was always called Mostly Film because we wanted to be able to cover a variety of subjects, not just the movies. So there's nothing particularly odd about my latest piece there being a review of an opera - especially an opera whose subject is the life of one of the icons of American cinema.

Philip Glass' The Perfect American had its UK premiere at the Coliseum on Saturday June 1st: my task was to have a review of it ready for publication on Monday June 3rd, and I'm pleased to say I managed to pull it off. It meant that my review came out roughly the same time as the Fleet Street ones, and it's interesting to see how mixed the notices are: it's generally accepted that there are problems, but there seems to be little agreement about what those problems are.

Anyway, has all this made you at least a little interested in Philip Glass' earlier operas, the Portrait Trilogy that originally made his name in the world's opera houses? Well, as usual, I'm taking this excuse to back up my Mostly Film article with some Red Button content featuring clips from them, plus some other related bits and pieces. (I'm not entirely sure how legitimate some of these clips are, so don't blame me if they're not there any more when you go to have a look.)

The Portrait Trilogy was a set of three operas, each one focussing on a man who changed history. First up is Einstein On The Beach, Glass' 1976 collaboration with Robert Wilson. The most abstract of the operas in the trilogy, it's the only one I haven't seen yet, despite it having a successful world-wide revival only last year. This is a collection of extracts from a performance in Montpelier in 2012.

The second opera, Satyagraha, takes a slightly more conventional look at the life of Gandhi. It was staged by ENO in 2007, and is making a return to the Coliseum this autumn, after the run of The Perfect American has completed. Here's a sequence as performed at the New York Met in 2011.

The last one in the Trilogy is Akhnaten, which was the first Philip Glass opera I ever saw, again at the ENO. Be warned, this section - The Window Of Appearances - will turn up on one of my old Pick Of The Year compilations when we get to 1987. This is a 2013 performance by Jacobs School of Music in Indiana.

Coming up to date, to give you a bit of a flavour of The Perfect American, here's a promotional trailer for it made by Teatro Real in Madrid, who held its world premiere earlier this year.

Next, for one of my regular readers, here's something a bit less operatic from Glass' Songs From Liquid Days, a series of collaborations with artists from the rock and pop fields. Freezing has lyrics by - yes! - Suzanne Vega, and is sung by Linda Ronstadt.

Finally - and I'm ashamed to admit that I never even considered mentioning this until @MostlyFilm themselves brought it up - here's a short audio-only clip of the last time Philip Glass was involved in animation.


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