Chicago Premiere

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The Perfect American takes us to the last three months of the legendary Walt Disney's life. Shuffling between the dreary present and memories of his iconic, American upbringing, Philip Glass fills in the spaces where the facts we know end. Disney is haunted by his own mortality, boundless ambition, and visionary empire. 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 Perfect American

Opera by Philip Glass
Based on the Book by Peter Stephan Jungk
Libretto by Rudolph Wurlitzer

Glass' 25th opera, The Perfect American was originally commissioned by the New York City Opera in 2008. It had its world premiere at the Teatro Real in Madrid on January 22, 2013 and was produced in English on June 1st, 2013 at the English National Opera. Long Beach Opera will premiere the opera in North America in our co-production this Spring.

The libretto by Rudy Wurlitzer is based on the novel Der König von Amerika by Peter Stephan Jungk. Der König von Amerika was translated to The Perfect American by Michael Hofmann: you can find his English version here. The novel is told from the perspective of a fictional Austrian cartoonist working for Disney between 1940 and 1950. Wurlitzer’s libretto brings us to the end of Disney’s life as he grapples with his past, his memories, and the empire he’s built.

Though the novel and opera are controversial for their portrayals of Disney, Glass has made it clear that the opera “is not a documentary or portrait.”  In separate 2013 interviews, Glass spoke at length about Disney’s problematic history and how his portrayal grapples with it. "When I started out, people thought I was going to laugh at him," Glass has said. "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."
“He had the cultural baggage of his day. He wasn’t any worse or any better than anybody else in that regard. The essential thing about the opera is not that. The essential part of the opera is that he was an American icon. He was a visionary.” 


Bonus! Audience Portraits

Starting an hour before each performance audience m

embers will have a chance to have their portrait done by a local Chicago artist. Artists range from cartoonists, caricature artists, to watercolorists. Choose your favorite style and celebrate the magic of art. Portraits are free, available at a first-come, first-served basis, and will take approx. 5-10 minutes.

Andreas Mitisek by Ken Klopack  


Philip Glass

Philip GlassAmerican 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 Philsophy. Glass discovered surealism in Chicago and a few years later attended the Julliard School of Music where he studi

ed keyboard and composition. Now a composer of operas and symphones 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 over 25 operas, 8 symphonies and two piano concertos.

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Kevin Newbury


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Kevin Newbury is an opera, theatre and film director based in New York City. Kevin has directed over fifty 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’Opéra de Montréal, 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. Kevin 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). Kevin’s two short films, Monsura is Waiting and STAG, have showed at dozens of film festivals and have won several awards.

Andreas Mitisek



Mr. Mitisek has been the General Director of Chicago Opera Theater since June of 2012. He has also been Artistic and General Director of Long Beach Opera (LBO) since 2003. A native of Austria, he served as Artistic and music Director of the Wiener Operntheater from 1990 – 1997, the foremost contemporary opera company in Austria. Mr. Mitisek has conducted at the Wiener Volksoper, the Komische Oper in Berlin, the festival “Wien Modern”, the Wiener Konzerthaus and Musikverein, and others.  He is also sought after as a guest conductor in North America, leading productions for the Seattle Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Vancouver Ope4ra, Austin Lyric Opera, Hawaii Opera Theater, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, amongst other. His work as director and designer for site-specific productions in parking garages, swimming pools, night clubs, and warehouses has become a successful hall mark of his work with LBO, and his first such production with COT, Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Euridice, was critically and publicly acclaimed. He is dedicated to attracting new audiences to COT by exploring unorthodox venues and presenting new and rare works (a key attribute of his leadership at LBO). Mitisek has been named by Opera News as one of the 25 people that will be a major force in the field of opera in the coming decade. Mitisek was featured as a LA Tastemaker by LA Times Magazine in 2009, Arts Leader of the Year by the Long Beach Arts Council in 2009, and was highlighted as one of the “2012 People” by LA Weekly. Recent COT credits include: conductor, Thérèse Raquin; conductor, stage director and production designer, Maria de Buenos Aires; director and production designer, Orpheus and Euridice, La Voix Humaine & Gianni Schicchi; conductor, The Fall of the House of Usher.

Justin Ryan

Walt Disney

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Praised for his “commanding presence” (Opera News) and singing of “tremendous sympathy and charisma” (NY Classical Review), American baritone Justin Ryan has appeared with companies across the United States, making company debuts in the 2015 season with Opera Columbus, Lancaster Opera, and the Mississippi Opera. Engagements in 2016 included the title role in Wendy Taucher’s new production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville on Martha’s Vineyard, as well as debuts with the Connecticut Lyric Opera, as Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, and The New York City Opera, where critics were unanimous in their praise for his strong portrayal of the painter Edward Hopper in Stewart Wallace’s surrealist opus, Hopper’s Wife.

Zeffin Quinn Hollis

Roy Disney/Underkeeper

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Zeffin Quinn Hollis headed the Live International broadcasts of the Ward opera rendition of Miller’s The Crucible & Tobias Picker’s Emmeline, both for MezzoTV. No stranger to world premieres, Hollis has taken part in many inaugural productions with composers like Jake Heggie, Thomas Pasatieri, & Tarik O’Regan topping the list. He has been heard at Dallas Opera, Santa Fe Opera, New York City Opera, Palm Beach Opera, New Orleans Opera, Long Beach Opera, Pécs & Szeged National Theaters Hungary, and Lviv National Theatre Ukraine. Recent roles include Sweeney Todd, Falstaff, Scarpia, & Kassim in the world premiere of Fallujah. Find more at

Scott Ramsay

Wilhelm Dantine


Scott Ramsay is highly regarded by opera companies across North America and abroad for his dynamic performances in repertoire ranging from bel canto to the 21st Century.  With Lyric Opera of Chicago, he has sung Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire, the Painter/Sailor in Lulu, and Mark in The Midsummer Marriage.  His recent engagements include Narraboth in Salome with Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera with Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra; Beadle Bamford in Sweeney Toddwith Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Virginia Opera; Henry Ward Beecher in Victoria Bond’s Mrs. Presidentthe Opera at New York City’s Symphony Space; and Gherardo in Gianni Schicchi with Chicago Opera Theater.

Jamie Chamberlin

Hazel George

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Called “Spellbinding” by the San Francisco Chronicle, soprano Jamie Chamberlin has been recognized for her abilities as a singing actress. Recently, ArtsInLA hailed her Cunegonde in Long Beach Opera’s Candide as “Jaw-dropping.” In 2015, Jamie starred as Marilyn Monroe in the US Premiere of Gavin Bryars’ Marilyn Forever at LBO, for which Opera News praised her “shimmering tones” and “star-struck vulnerability”. Other roles include Soprano II in Glass/Ginsberg’s Hydrogen Jukebox, and Anne Sexton in Susa’s Transformations. Chamberlin’s world-premiere performances include the Soprano solo in Salonen’s Wing on Wing, Elyn Saks in The Center Cannot Hold, and Lisa in the Delos Recording of Mark Abel’s Home is a

Suzan Hanson

Lillian Disney

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With Long Beach Opera: Madame Raquin, Marilyn Klinhoffer, Lady Macbeth, Madeline (Fall of the House of Usher), Mrs. P (The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat), Margarita (Ainadamar), Medea, Mrs. Williamson (The Difficulty of Crossing a Field), Pat Nixon, Brünnhilde. Premiered works by Philip Glass, Rinde Eckert, Michel LeGrand, Henry Mollicone, Craig Bohmler. Other Opera companies: San Francisco, Arizona, Chicago Opera Theater, Connecticut, Carnegie Hall, Pittsburgh, Verona, Tel Aviv, Madrid, Spoleto, Florence. Theater companies: Old Globe, Denver Center, San Jose Rep. Recordings: The Tender Land (Koch), Coyote Tales (Newport Classics).

Alexandra Martinez-Turano

Sharon Disney

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A native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Alexandra Martinez-Turano recently "smoldered sexily in her dancing and singing" while making her mainstage debut as Helena in a new production of The Fairy Queen with Chicago Opera Theater and Long Beach Opera (Chicago Tribune). In 2017, She will return to Long Beach Opera and Chicago Opera Theater to perform the role of Sharon Disney in the American premiere of The Perfect American by Philip Glass. Alexandra has performed the roles of Sandrina, Echo, Pamina, Adele, Anna, Julie Jordan, Pernille, and Suor Genovieffa. She has performed with Chicago Opera Theater. Opera Southwest, OperaWorks, Landmark Musicals, University of New Mexico’s Opera Theatre and Symphony Orchestra, University of Southern California Opera Theater, and the La Mirada Symphony amongst others. She made her European debut in the summer of 2012 with the International Lyric Academy in Viterbo, Italy singing the role of Suor Genovieffa in Suor Angelica. Alexandra is a recent graduate from University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music earning a Masters of Music degree.  In the fall of 2016, she began the Professional Diploma in Opera Studies program at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Furthermore, Alexandra is thrilled to have joined Chicago Opera Theater as a Young Artist for the seasons. She currently studies with Judith Haddon.

Lara Ryan

Diane Disney

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“RADIANT”, “COMMANDING”, “COMPELLING and IMPRESSIVELY TOUCHING”, are some recent accolades for soprano Lara Ryan. About her performance in the title role of Victor Herbert’s grand opera Natoma, Opera News wrote “(as Natoma) Lara Ryan sang with a creamy soprano full of power at both ends of her wide range.” She has sung with the New York Philharmonic, New England Symphony, Collegiate Chorale, Utah Festival Opera, Anchorage Opera, Madison Lyric Opera, Long Beach Opera, Opera Pacific, Sacred Music in a Sacred Space and New York Bar Association Concert Series, amongst others. Upcoming engagements include Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello.

Rana Ebrahimi


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Coloratura Rana Ebrahimi is thrilled to make her COT debut as Lucy/Josh. Born in Iran, Rana earned an associate degree in Instrumental Music (flute) from the Performing Arts College No.46 in Tehran. Rana discovered her passion for singing in the middle of her musical path as a flutist and began private voice instruction. She moved to United States in 2013 to pursue her dream of becoming an opera singer. Rana has performed as Sister Genovieffa in Suor Angelica, Gherardino in Gianni Schicchi, and most recently as Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann.  Opera scenes performances includeÄnnchen (Der Freischütz), Yum-Yum (The Mikado), First Spirit (Die Zauberflöte), Poppea (L’Incoronatione di Poppea).

Kyle Knapp

Doctor/Chuck/Andy Warhol

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Tenor, composer, pianist. Operas: Jason, Jason and the Argonauts, Lyric Opera of Chicago; John Wilson, Scarlet Letter, Opera Colorado; Flute, Midsummer Night’s Dream and Tobias, Sweeney Todd, Hawaii Opera; Almaviva, The Barber of Seville, Opera Theater of St. Louis; Ramiro, La Cenerentola, New Jersey Festival Orchestra. Opera companies; Palm Beach Opera, Pensacola Opera, Crested Butte Music festival, Ohio Light Opera.Concerts: Carmina Burana, NJ Festival Orchestra; Das Lied von der Erde Carnegie Hall. Recordings: Albany Records: Sousa’s El Capitan, G and S Patience and Mikado, Herbert’s The Only Girl. Naxos: Laitman’s Scarlet Letter

Kira Dills-DeSurra


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Kira Dills-DeSurra (mezzo-soprano) is a second year Young Artist with Chicago Opera Theater. Recently with COT she has sung Lysander (cover)/ Ensemble (The Fairy Queen), Isolde of the White Hands (Le Vin Herbé), La Ciesca (Gianni Schicchi), Cecilio (Cover)/Chorus (Lucio Silla), and Mary (Cabildo, Chicago Premiere, COT Young Artists). Other roles include: Stéphano (Roméo et Juliette), Chewy (Hand to Mouth, World Premiere), Second Lady (Die Zauberflöte). Her upcoming engagements include the Nurse and Secretary in Glass’ Perfect American (Long Beach Opera and COT) and Mercédès in Bizet’s Carmen (Central City Opera). Ms. Dills-DeSurra hails from Petaluma, CA and is an alumnus of Roosevelt CCPA (MM) and USC (BM).

Chloe Treat

Assistant Director

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Chloe Treat is a New York based director and choreographer. Born and raised in the great, if not occasionally problematic state of Texas; she directs and choreographs musicals, plays, operas, outdoor dance rituals and feminist westerns. Chloe’s work centers on the curation and creation of modern mythologies, and investigates theater’s relationship to communal imagination. Director: The Dead (Hangar Theatre), Blood Wedding (NESA)Ten Blocks on the Camino Real(Tisch), The Two Character Play (NESA). Choreographer: Lucia Di Lammermoor (Heartbeat Opera),The Good Swimmer (The Prototype Festival), All’s Well That Ends Well (Shakespeare on the Sound), Daphnis and Chloe (Heartbeat Opera). Assistant/Associate: Natasha Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812 (Broadway/A.R.T), Amelie (Berkeley Repertory Theatre), Heisenberg (Broadway/Manhattan Theatre Club),Buyer and Cellar (Barrow Street Theater), The Fairy Tale Lives of Russian Girls (Yale Repertory Theater).

Original choreography for The Perfect American created by Chloe Treat. 

Zane Pihlström

Set Designer

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Work includes: Eurydice, The Finish National Theater; Macbeth, Volksbühne Am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz; Uncle Vanya, Uppsala Stadsteater; The King Stag, The Shanghai Academy;4:48 Psychosis, The Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center; The Seagull, City Theater of Reykjavik;BambilandOur Class, National Theater of Lithuania; The Ouroboros Trilogy; Boston. Zane is the resident designer for Company XIV, the New York based neo-baroque dance company. XIV productions fuse Baroque dance, opera, burlesque and circus acts. In 2014, Zane was nominated for a Drama Desk award for his design of Nutcracker Rouge.

Sean Cawelti

Video Designer

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Sean Cawelti graduated from UC Irvine with honors in Directing and studied puppetry at Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. Sean is the founding Artistic Director of Rogue Artists Ensemble a multi-media, puppet and mask company and was the Center Theater Group’s 2015 Sherwood Award recipient.He has designed puppets, masks, props and video for theater, music videos, museums, concerts and arena shows including the Kanye West Yeezus tour. Sean is a member of IATSE United Scenic Artists Local USA829.

David Jacques

Lighting Designer

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David Martin Jacques returns to the Long Beach Opera as Lighting Designer for The Perfect American. David previously designed the lighting for LBO’s productions of Therese Raquin andThe Fall of the House of Usher. Recent productions include: scenery and lighting for As One for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, lighting and projections for A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Palau de les Arts in Valencia, and scenery, lighting, and projections for The Ballad of Baby Doe for Central City Opera. The many companies that David has designed for include: Teatro alla Scala, The Royal Opera House, The English National Opera, Teatro la Fenice, The New Theatre of Tokyo, Hong Kong Opera, The Canadian Opera Company, Chicago Lyric Opera, and The Norwegian Opera Company. David will also be designing the lighting for the upcoming LBO world premier of The Invention of Morel. David teaches stage design at California State University Long Beach.


  • Performances

  • Apr. 30
  • Venue

  • The Harris Theater for Music and Dance
    205 E Randolph St
    Chicago, IL 60601
  • Duration & Language

  • Approx. 2 hours and 20 minutes including 1 intermission
    Performed in English
  • Sponsors

  • Season Sponsors
    Roger & Julie Baskes
    Gregory O'Leary & Patricia Kenney
  • Production Sponsors
    Stefan Edlis & Gael Neeson
    Reel Captivation
    Bill & Orli Staley
  • Opening Night Sponsor
    COT President's Council

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Andreas Mitisek,
Stefan Edlis & Gael Neeson Artistic Director

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70 E. Lake Street Suite 415 • Chicago, IL 60601 • Box Office: 312.704.8414 • Administrative: 312.704.8420 • E-Mail: [email protected]