The Perfect American is the ironic title of Philip Glass’ latest opera which premiered in Madrid last year. It’s about Walt Disney and set at the end of his life looking back at his life and forward to his death. It’s a not very flattering portrait. It depicts Disney as blinkered, racist, virulently anti-Communist and, in fact, only comfortable with a sort of Leave it to Beaver America; though passionate about that.
Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail is a problematic opera. It’s got some great music but the libretto is pretty weak and its depiction of Turks is pretty unflattering. Maybe it seemed edgy less than a hundred years after the Ottomans besieged Vienna but today it just seems mildly embarrassing. Fortunately it’s a singspiel with dialogue rather than opera with recitatives so it’s fairly easy to play with the story line. For his 1998 production Stuttgart at the Staatsoper Stuttgart, Hans Neuenfels goes much further. He double each of the singers with an actor and pretty much rewrites the dialogue. He also introduces an element of metatheatre. This is a performance and everyone knows it. For example when Pedrillo is asked how he’s going to get hold of a ladder for the escape scene he replies that he’ll use the one they always use in this opera.