On the morning following the Presidential election in November, 2016, Gabriel Kahane elected to board a train and to travel the United States, talking with those he met. He traveled for thirteen days and covered, he says, 8980 miles, conversing in dining cars, in observation cars, on station platforms, and returning with the material for the songs that make up 8980: Book of Travelers. A recording is rumored to be coming some time this year. The performance version premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music as part of the BAM Next Wave Festival in November, 2017. On February 2, it will be presented at the University of Michigan. Last night, on the anniversary of the Inauguration that followed from the election that birthed it, Book of Travelers came to Los Angeles and the Theatre at Ace Hotel.
8980: Book of Travelers is, like The Ambassador before it, a collection of songs on a theme. It is a contemporary cousin to the mid 1970s work of Randy Newman (Sail Away, Good Old Boys, and Little Criminals) and of Joni Mitchell. It is a sort of counter-Hejira: where Joni Mitchell emphasizes travel as a means of escape, an active effort to become lost, Gabriel Kahane approaches it as a mode of inquiry, an effort to find something or other (cf. Paul Simon's "America"). In that, Book of Travelers connects with the tradition of writers taking to the road to find where it might lead, or what questions it might answer, as in Steinbeck's Travels With Charley or, in an entirely different vein, the latter portions of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Kahane's chosen musical style dials back somewhat the American Songbook grab-bag of Newman (and of The Ambassador) and in favor of accenting the stratum of art song that grounded his short-story-esque song cycle The Fiction Issue.
The musical forces and staging for 8980:Book of Travelers are less elaborate than for The Ambassador: just a grand piano and an angled ribbon of four projection screens behind. An autoharp was discretely embedded inside the piano, and used with similar discretion. Looping pedals and a vocal processor were used for a brief segment that evoked simultaneously Laurie Anderson and the helium-voiced sociopathic toon in Roger Rabbit. For the most part, Kahane simply sat, played and sang, with occasional brief remarks on the particular travelers from whom a song was born.
I, for one, loved it:
Thank you, @gabrielkahane, for "8980: Book of Travelers". So embracing, so humane, so sad and lovely and funny, and so gosh darned American. 13/10. Will be losing myself in the recorded version when it comes.
Whether questions were answered or not on the singer's journey is uncertain. It is clear that, for Gabriel Kahane, the trip reaffirmed that the blending and exchange of human voices, whether in conversation or in song, is something of a good in itself, and that each of those voices is uniquely derived from a long and personal history. Where are we, as a nation? How did we get here? What can we or should we do, now that we are here? Book of Travelers does not presume to answer that sort of question, other than to suggest that it is through that exchange of voices, and in the understanding of one another's individual and overlayering histories, that any route to a method for the pursuit of an approach to such answers may be descried.
Because the Book of Travelers songs have, for the most part, not yet been released in a recorded version, most of us in the room were hearing them for the first time last night. Gabriel Kahane writes very well for his own voice, so that most of his words could be grasped on the fly. Still, there is no doubt that repeated listening will yield increasing returns. There is every reason to think that this Fool will be unable to resist writing about it again, if only by an amendment to this post, whenever a recording eventually enters the station.
In the meantime, two of these songs were sent out into the world in the latter part of 2017: "Little Love" and "November." "November" literally picks up where the concluding song on The Ambassador, "Union Station", left off, referencing "that last train from L.A." It begins in direct address to the listener with the words, "When last we spoke...", pointing toward the one-to-one conversations that are at the center of Book of Travelers. I had surmised, from this circumstantial evidence, that "November" would be the first song in the Book. I surmised incorrectly: it proved in performance to be the last song in the series. "Little Love" is a delicious little earworm of a song, performed straightforward as you please in concert without any projections or dramatic lighting, on the theme of growing fondly old together. I have previously expressed my particular fondness for "Little Love" on Twitter:
You can have your Lennon-McCartney. You can have (and keep, far from me, thanks) your Ed Sheeran. You can even have Robert Browning in his romantic might.
July 3 of 2018 will mark the ostensible 15th Anniversary of this blog. There were giants in those days, and I stared enviously up at their scabby brilliant knees. Who knows what I may push myself to do with this dear weary site in the coming year. I suspect there will be more poetry; I hope there will be something more frequently appealing as well.
So here we are again with "Listening Listfully", my catalogue of the album/EP-length recordings released in the past twelvemonth that most particularly tickled my fancy. Old school preferences underlie the thing: a preference for music arranged into "albums" or their equivalent, and a preference for buying and owning said music (in the hope its creators might actually be compensated for their creations) over smash-and-grab streaming. A random quantity of numbered choices in the mid-forties this year, followed by an unquantified miscellany because, as I said in 2016, "the List is like baseball: it could in theory go on without end."
I style this blog as an index of enthusiasms. These are personal favorites, as always, rather than "bests"—although I maintain that everything here is here because it is genuinely among the best things of the past year, and not simply because I have enjoyed it. The rankings become increasingly imprecise with each step down the line. I have provided commentary, of sorts, for the first fifteen on the list; it is a random stopping point, driven mostly by a desire to post this while it is still 2017 (at least in North America). There are inevitably many recordings of quality omitted, simply because I have yet to listen to them.
Flawed, entirely subjective, and internally contradictory as always, here begins the twelfth edition of The List:
1. Michael Vincent Waller - Trajectories
This is a beautiful recording. To hear it gives pleasure. Great, if quiet, pleasure. This music engages the lived and living world, and particularly the acts of receiving that world through the senses and of sifting through it in the mind, in dreams, or, if one insists, in the soul, and finds the essentials of that world to be, if only impurely, good and deserving of the engagement, and the engagement good and deserving of being shared. This is hardly the only task that music, or most any art, can choose to take on itself—this List, in any given year, is something of a demonstration of how many different things music can attempt to "do", including choosing to do nearly nothing—but it is a task that has always appealed to this particular listener. When I wrote about Michael Vincent Waller's first major collection, 2015's The South Shore, I invoked Baudelaire's phrase: luxe, calme et volupté. That still fits.
This collection focuses principally on works for solo piano, plus a pair of mid-length pieces for piano with cello. The pianist is R. Andrew Lee, best known for his recordings of adventurous minimalism and composers of Wanderweiser group. on the Irritable Hedgehog label. The cellist is Seth Parker Woods. The style and sensibility of the music is Waller's own, but it is easily associated with pianistic forebears such as Erik Satie (in particular), Harold Budd, and John Cage's "In a Landscape", with a dash of Gavin Bryars' string writing. Although it is not in general circulation (it was shared with supporters of one of his commissioning projects) Andy Lee has recorded a delicious collection of Satie and Satie-influenced piano, and that portion of his repertoire serves him well here.
At the time of release, the composer and players presented a handful of live performances, including one I was able to attend in Santa Monica. The balding back side of my head is, blessedly, out of frame in this video of "Lines" from that set:
2. Sam Amidon - The Following Mountain
In the opening moments of "Ghosts", Sam Amidon bellows "I'm all out of ideas!" He is mistaken. His work has been a fixture of this list for nigh on a decade now, and the ideas never stop. Built largely on gleanings from a single long guardedly improvisational recording session, the album is a slurry combining the folk, trad, banjo, fiddle, and shape note material one expects with Sam's longstanding interest in new music and in experimental and avant corners of jazz, with drummer Milford Graves as emissary and conduit. Sam Gendel [#6, below] and his saxophone bring additional savor. At this time, my personal favorite among Sam's albums, and a good précis of what makes all of them so rewarding.
3. Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Bjarnason - Recurrence
The best full-orchestra album of 2017. Accept no substitutes. Composer Daníel Bjarnason conducts works by the current generation of Icelandic composers, including his own darkly surging "Emergence". (There is a superb version of that piece on his Bedroom Community debut, . This new version is better.) Bjarnason co-curated (with Esa-Pekka Salonen) the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Reykjavik Festival in spring 2017, and most of these pieces turned up on one program or another. If any doubt remained, that Festival and this recording serve as compelling testimony to the creative variety and strength of Icelandic music at this time.
[Both Daníel Bjarnason and Anna Thorvaldsdottír also have pieces on Los Angeles Percussion Quartet's Beyond, #8 below.]
4. Miles Mosley - Uprising
Miles Mosley plays bass in Kamasi Washington's band, and much of this material comes out of the West Coast Get Down sessions that eventually resulted in Washington's epic Coltranesque epic, The Epic. In Washington's band, Mosley does most everything one can with an upright bass: plucking, bending, bowing, and more. Rather than a jazz-jazz album, Uprising is a floor-shaking contemporary soul/R&B session. Mosley is an appealing singer, on the lines of Stevie Wonder's grittier side. Just when you wonder where all the bass is, you realize that what you may have thought was electric guitar, including the Hendrixy solos, is the bass. Plenty of bottom here, in every sense. [More West Coast Get Down-adjacent music appears below, from Kamasi Washington (#9) and Natasha Agrama (#11).]
5. Slowdive - Slowdive
I rediscovered a hitherto unrecalled fondness for shoegaze this year. This, the first new Slowdive album in 22 years, sealed the deal. Bathe in it.
6. Sam Gendel - 4444
andSam Gendel - HAT TRICK
andSam Gendel - Double Expression
Sam Gendel, largely on saxophone, is an important contributor to Sam Amidon's The Following Mountain [#2, above]. On 4444, his first album under his own name (largely featuring his trio previously recorded under the name of Inga), largely foregoes saxophone in favor of lithe, swirling, bossa nova flavored guitar songs. It remakes any space quite attractively while it is playing, and the occasional gesture toward sociopolitical concerns led me to characterize it on Twitter as "José González, with thorns".
The vocal-free HAT TRICK and Double Expression return the saxophone to the foreground. The former is a three-track EP of Gendel solo improvisations, with loops and electronics, very much in the vein of Jon Hassell; the latter is nearly two and a half hours of material recorded live, in duo and trio formats, on a single afternoon in an apartment and on the sidewalks of L.A.'s Silver Lake neighborhood. In all of these settings, Gendel's groove is true.
[Although he does not, I believe, appear on Aromanticism (#10 below), Sam Gendel also plays in Moses Sumney's touring band.]
7. Aaron Roche - HaHa HuHu
Recommended, for recondite strangeness, for grit & sparkling lint, for indwelling beauties.
8. Los Angeles Percussion Quartet - Beyond
There is a good argument to be made that the U.S. is currently in something of a Golden Age of Percussion Ensembles. In composition and in performance, the music on this two-disc set is roughly as good as contemporary percussion music gets. Chris Cerrone's "Memory Palace" never fails to move me as a solo piece, and this rearrangement for quartet is my favorite version yet. Andrew McIntosh's disc-long "I Hold the Lion's Paw" is an quietly immersive amble through a vivid series of interior landscapes, a trip unto itself. I strongly suspect that I will look back someday and decide I have underrated Beyond in this ranking.
9. Kamasi Washington - Harmony of Difference
A six-part jazz suite with Washington and band building and trading themes and solos, the whole structure bursting to accumulated glory in its final long segment. Supremely satisfying.
10. Moses Sumney - Aromanticism
Moses Sumney's falsetto. Draperies of diaphanous sound. Love and sex and happiness and their alternatives, stewed, steamed, and seasoned in yearning. Harp. Did I mention that falsetto?
11. Natasha Agrama - The Heart of Infinite Change
Although Natasha Agrama has West Coast Get Down connections, and has sung with Kamasi Washington's band, there is no sign of Miles Mosley (#4 above) on bass. Instead, one must make do with Thundercat or with the singer's stepfather, Stanley Clarke. The bass chair nicely signifies the heady mix of youth and experience on this record. The other old lion on hand, in his final session, is the late George Duke. A beautifully spare version of "In a Sentimental Mood," with just Clarke and Duke and an occasional fingersnap for accompaniment, is the second best thing here. Best is a reworking of Joni Mitchell's reworking of Charles Mingus's homage to Lester Young, "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," expanded into a tribute to the song's entire line descent, its focus shifting from New York to Los Angeles, to dazzling effect.
12. The Knells - Knells II
Progressive rock. Medieval polyphony. Two great tastes that continue to go great together in the hands of Andrew McKenna Lee and band. Really, you should try this.
13. Donny McCaslin - Beyond Now
David Bowie played saxophone himself in the early part of his career. Donny McCaslin has the distinction of being Bowie's last sax player, as part of the jazz-based band assembled for Blackstar. McCaslin's latest with his own longtime band includes two Bowie-Eno covers: "A Small Plot of Land" from Outside and a gripping and granitic version of "Warszawa" from Low, the latter seemingly filtered through the lens of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman." The blowing and swinging and escalating choruses on the remainder of the album are also of top blowing and swinging quality.
14. The Mynabirds - BE HERE NOW
Laura Burhenn, rocking the #Resistance. Quite aside from its politics, this album satisfies in ways one used to be able almost to take for granted in American Rock Records.
15. Psychic Temple - IV
Another waking dream narrative of Southern California musics. Chris Schlarb is a wizard at this.
Further in the way of item by item commentary affiant sayeth not, at this point in time. Affiant reserves the right perhaps to return and scribble post hoc commentary on some or all of the entrants below, all of which are worthy of your attention.
16. R. Stevie Moore & Jason Falkner - Make It Be
17. World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
18. Nadia Sirota - Tesselatum
19. ensemble, et al. - The Slow Reveal
20. The National - Sleep Well Beast
21. Jean-Michel Blais & CFCF - Cascades
22. Jasper String Quartet - Unbound
23. Del Sol String Quartet - Dark Queen Mantra
24. Scott Wollschleger: Soft Aberration
25. The Tape Disaster - Oh! Myelin!
26. Qasim Naqvi - FILM
27. Theo Bleckmann - Elegy
28. Amir ElSaffar/Rivers of Sound - Not Two
29. Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Courtenay Budd - David Del Tredici: Child Alice
30. William Basinski - A Shadow in Time
31. Kovtun - Infernal
32. Choral Arts Initiative - How To Go On: Choral Music of Dale Trumbore
33. Casey Dienel - Imitation of a Woman to Love
34. The Dan Ryan - Guidance
35. Denny Zeitlin & George Marsh - Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations
A plate of cold deviled eggs looking back at me like that old devil moon. And I hold a beveled glass full of Beaujolais and a runcible spoon. An ice cold Grüner In a frosted schooner Is your potation of choice on this island Earth where we all stand marooned.
When the stereo blasts “O Fortuna”, It's a wonder you didn't leave sooner: Steal away, Dandy, Don't let those French doors hit you too hard.
At the end of the drive there's an Uber-mensch with a smile and a lift. As he hands you an ale and an allen wrench, it seems a natural gift. Ill at ease with the notion Of Eternal Devotion, With a gesture you're moving at speed to the beach As a swallow is swift.
Still the stereo blasts “O Fortuna”, Bottles empty and I should have seen sooner: Steal away, Dandy, Don't let those French doors hit you too hard.
I've heard Arnold once heard it, and Sophocles, both long withdrawn from the world. That sound you don’t catch catches you: a kaleidoscope tumbling curl. There is one wave in seven Lofting hell-bent to heaven. Washed by sea wrack and sand and you envy the grit In the heart of the pearl
You wonder what Life means to teach you When the rescue lines cannot quite reach you: Steal away, Dandy, Adrift a few yards too far from the shore.
(Hey now hey now: don't dream it's Dover….)
Note: The attentive reader might well deduce that this set of verses is meant as a pastiche/homage to the lyrics of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, aka Steely Dan. And that attentive reader would be entirely correct. With the recent passing of Walter Becker, I found myself drawn to listen to his first solo record, 11 Tracks of Whack (1994), and realizing just how much of the Steely Dan sound should properly be credited to him. I also, at some point, discovered that the first two lines of this thing had formulated in my mind. So I set to work to write a full set of lyrics "in the style", and here they are. There is a melody to all this that exists in my head, drawing from the lope of "Home at Last" with a dollop of Fleetwood Mac's "Hypnotized". Should we ever meet, I will venture to sing it, unaccompanied, but will forebear for a price.
Removing the mirror leaves two spaces empty: The space before, a space behind, And yet a third: the space between What is seen and what is there to be seen.
Behind the wall that stood behind the mirror Another absent mirror stands implied.
Before the wall that stands disclosed Where once a mirror tossed transverted vistas Back to its observer in its obverse world Essay it as you saw once in a film: Extend a gloved hand or hesitant finger To probe through absences of images of what was where to find a way to there By a push and a press At the melting emptiness With palms and inner knuckles then a wrist A sleeve an elbow soon enough a shoulder and In one membranous pop perhaps yourself.
Be still as limpid sheer reflective water Be sure as you are still as you approach The tensing surface of that vacancy In transit toward Another side an other side aside Astride a sliding shine of faceted glass And as Silvered glass may pass for mercury Hermetic ceilings lower in suspense A wingèd heel extends its healing wing And then is flown. Persistent vision’s memory insists Though silvered glass might pass that you will not.
The mirror would not yield if it was there Its emptied place yields less The vacant wall yields least of all
The Knoxville Gay Men's Chorus will be celebrating its 5th Anniversary with its Spring Concert on Saturday night, May 20. In amongst songs made famous by Simon and Garfunkel, Madonna, Cindy Lauper, and the Pointer Sisters, the concert will include the premiere of a new piece composed by Dave Volpe: "Power and Light". In 2014, Dave was the composer of "Nebula of Angels", which was commissioned and premiered in Walt Disney Concert Hall as part of the 35th Anniversary concert of the Los Angeles Gay Mens' Chorus.
This fool provided the text for "Nebula of Angels," and when Dave Volpe received the Knoxville commission he graciously requisitioned another pile of words, in a celebratory/anthemic vein, and it was this fool's pleasure to oblige. I have yet to hear a note of the music Dave hath wrought this time, and I will not be in Knoxville when the final product is rolled out, but here, for whatever delectation they may provide in the absence of Dave's music, are those words as I compiled and piled them.
POWER AND LIGHT
Out of our watery refuge
And into the unsettled air
The earth and the fire await us
In their time
Adrift in the wake of that secretive sea
An inner spark lights the fuse for flight
Striking a match, the heart is still grounded
Stoking our personal flame
Power and Light
Power and Light
The club and the fist are no match for the bliss of
Power and Light
We are sowing Power and Light
Power and Light
Power and Light
The lift and the laughter lasting hereafter
Power and Light
Warm and glowing Power and Light
Under the star-shadowed nightfall
And into each uncertain day
The labyrinth lies before us
At risk in a mist amid pitfalls and traps
Our inner spark lights the fuse for flight
Passion and voice, as beams in that darkness
Arcing like coals to the torch
Power and Light
Power and Light
The leap from the shoot to the trunk to the fruit
Power and Light
We are sowing Power and Light
Power and Light
Power and Light
Exploring, divining the glory that’s shining
Power and Light
We are showing Power and Light
Our lives will not be silent
We will never shun the fight
For hearts and hopes and love and freedom
Standing striding echoing on
Tracing, replacing all that is gone
More than before reaching up and beyond
Renewing the world with the force of a song
Refilling the world with
Power and Light
Power and Light
Power and Light
The club and the fist are no match for the bliss of
slow light draping the spiked cylinder the gears’ teeth the spinning vane the torquing key and vertiginous spring from whence this once and once again springs Lohengrin or Brahms perhaps some music anyway some old and toothsome sound come round again and still again unlocking still and yet again the unlocked stillness teething sweetly teasing out the inner ear
[jocular cochlear jiggery pokery]
tricking and trickling out from the tight grained tight wound spring loaded shine varnished mite box of musings
"Walt Disney", as a name, has never gone away, although it was 50 years this past December 15 since Walter Elias Disney the man expired. It is likely difficult for anyone much younger than 60 to understand what a constant and continuing presence Disney the man had in U.S.life and culture straight up to the moment of his death. Philip Glass's twenty-fifth opera, The Perfect American, which on Sunday received its belated U.S. premiere via Long Beach Opera, explores and (as it were) reanimates the man in the most appropriate way: by spinning him through a mirror-fragmented jumble of stories.
Adapted, by librettist Rudy Wurlitzer, from a novel by Peter Stephan Jungk (Der König von Amerika), The Perfect American takes place during the final months of Disney's life, imagining him hospitalized and lighting out for the territory of dreams and occasional nightmares, recalling versions of his past, confronting his history, his strengths and weaknesses, what he was and became and might be in the future. Citizen Kane-like, it freights its protagonist's earliest years - here, Disney's childhood in Marceline, Missouri, in the company of his indispensable brother, Roy - ceiling-high with significance and meaning.
Dramatically, it works more often than not, producing a nuanced and faceted Portrait of the Artist as a Messy and Perhaps Unknowable Human Being. Reports from the world premiere in Madrid in 2013 focused in on the critiques, particularly the conclusion of Act 1 in which Disney voices an array of [sadly standard for their day] racist views, and is set upon by his own Audioanimatronic simulacrum of Abraham Lincoln. The racist attitudes are there, certainly, as are Disney's willingness to battle union labor and to bare knuckle it against anyone who stood in the way of his sometimes self-important creative vision. But if these flaws are not forgiven - and they are not - they play off against what their human carrier accomplished: not a business empire built on shabby real estate deals or moving other people's money around, but an empire built on finding, feeding and fulfilling the dreams of others. Disney is seen here (though the comparison is never made overtly) as a figure akin to Wagner, whose creative work is not ultimately poisoned by his sometimes deplorable personal qualities.
At Long Beach, director Kevin Newbury and his design team have confined the entirety of the literal action to Walt's hospital room and the theater of the patient's mind. When Walt casts back on his fondness for trains, hospital beds become trains. When he faces a vision of an owl that he killed in a panic as a child - the only time, he insists, that he ever killed anything - it appears as a child patient's stuffed toy and as a costume constructed from medical paraphernalia. Silhouettes of Marceline, Missouri, and of a classic Disney castle are constructed of bottles, clipboards, and the like, a surgical lamp casting their shadows on suspended bedsheets.
Philip Glass is easily and unreasonably stereotyped as nothing but a peddler of arpeggios, based on his earliest work. There was more to him then, and there is much more to him now. Glass has developed a genuine "late style" that incorporates all those swirly arpeggios and repetitions in company with a restrained but potent approach to melody (melody!) and an array of punctuation tricks in the percussion section. It is a richly whipped brew, riding long and dextrous rhythmic lines. It is also, perhaps surprisingly, a solid ground over which to sing, allowing the audience to actually hear and decipher the words and the singers to deliver them with dramatic point. The chorus, out of keeping with the usual Glass approach, is positively folksy: they sing "happy birthday," they quack and hoot, and they sing comforting bromides about dreams coming true much as the choruses do in the classic Disney pastorals.
Disney's Lincoln automaton, resident at Disneyland for over 50 years, was originally created for the 1964 New York World's Fair, where it was the centerpiece of the pavilion of the State of Illinois. (The best thing in the Disney studio's otherwise misfiring Tomorrowland was its loving recreation of elements of the Fair.) Disney and his "Imagineers" provided animatronic creations to a total of four pavilions in 1964: Lincoln for Illinois, the "Carousel of Progress" for General Electric, dinosaurs and cavemen for Ford and, most inescapably, "It's a Small World" for Pepsi. Pepsi's Moppets of the World make no appearance in The Perfect American, but Walt compares himself favorably to Henry Ford and Thomas Edison and Lincoln, as noted, looms large.
References to elements of Philip Glass's own past work are everywhere as well. Walt's love of trains, in particular, readily triggers memories of the trains in Einstein on the Beach; his yen to build things suggests Akhnaten; the collective, often mechanical effort on the part of animators, and the push against it, echo the tension between natural and mechanized worlds in Koyaanisqatsi; an owl appears prominently in Glass's portion of Robert Wilson's the CIVIL warS, as does Lincoln,whose concern for equality and racial justice Glass returns to in the recently revised Appomattox (which one can hope will find its way to southern California someday soon). The Perfect American seems at times as interesting a survey of the composer's creative history as it is a survey of Disney's.
The character of Walt Disney is on stage from start to penultimate scene (and after that, receives in this production a charmingly homespun apotheosis, waving us goodnight in a manner recognizable to anyone who grew up on The Wonderful World of Color). Justin Ryan as Walt hits all the necessary notes, musically and dramatically, only occasionally veering toward overselling the part. He is persuasive as a driven and powerful man who would rather return, if he could, to a simpler world of his boyhood. As stalwart brother Roy, Zeffan Quinn Hollis is duly stalwart; at Sunday's premiere, he doubled up as the duly righteous voice of robo-Lincoln. Suzan Hanson as Lillian Disney brought to the part some of the grounded dignity she previously displayed as Marilyn Klinghoffer, particularly in the late scene when Walt's death from lung cancer is revealed as inevitable. Jamie Chamberlin, previously one of LBO's twin Marilyn Monroes, charmed as the fictitious Walt's personal nurse Hazel George, whom he addresses as "Snow White".*
Being as it is not the Big Opera Company in town, Long Beach Opera is only able to mount two performances of The Perfect American. The remaining date is Saturday, March 18, and tickets are certainly to be had. (These performances are in the cavernous Terrace Theater, so the number of potentially available seats is not small.) Let your conscience be your guide. It is whispering that you should go.
Photos by Keith Ian Polakoff, used by kind permission of Long Beach Opera.
*Correction: The original version of this post referred to Hazel George as a fiction. Assorted fact checkers, including the singer, have pointed out that Hazel George was very real and that she was a remarkable, if hidden, figure in Disney's creative life.