Walt Disney.

A world premier of a haunting new opera about Walt Disney won a warm, but not rapturous, welcome in Spain as it delved into the dark side of the creator of Mickey Mouse.

The Spanish press gave broad praise to 75-year-old US composer Philip Glass's latest opera, The Perfect American, which made its debut at Madrid's Teatro Real.

"It won a long applause. It was not rapturous, far from it. But there was not a single boo. A real success considering the heterodoxy of the work and the rigid nature of some sections of the Madrid public," said the leading daily El Pais.

A joint production between the Teatro Real and English National Opera, it is based on a fictional work by American author Peter Stephan Jungk of a vengeful former Disney employee seeking to confront the cartoonist.

It is not for children.

The opera focuses on Disney's final years, leading up to his death on December 15, 1966 death from lung cancer in Burbank, California, and it probes disturbing aspects of his character.

The book that inspired the opera did not deny Disney's importance as a patriarch of mass culture and creator of a fantastical universe with speaking animals, said Ruben Amon, critic of Spanish conservative daily El Mundo.

But Disney, played in the opera by British bassist Christopher Purves, is portrayed as "arrogant, misogynist, racist, tyrannical, mean, ultraconservative, uncultured, hypochondriac and megalomaniac," he said.

At one point, Disney is displayed lying in his bed, at the centre of what appears to be a gun's sights.

"Philip Glass has put Disney in the gun's sights. Literally," Amon wrote.

"The implication is that the lung cancer will end his life, but it also warns the public that this opera consists in an exercise of demystification," he added.

The sweeping scope of the opera, which includes a dialogue between Disney and Abraham Lincoln, with highly praised music directed by Dennis Russell Davies, seemed to win over the audience.

"After an intense national and international media storm, focused on Disney's less admirable qualities, the moment of truth came and the Madrid public gave their blessing with a very warm reception," said a review by the conservative daily ABC.

The West Australian

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