Anna Nicole: The Opera?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

One of the major operatic events of the international calendar opens this week in London: Anna Nicole, the opera by composer Mark-Anthony Turnage and librettist Richard Thomas. Based on the sordid life story of the late Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith, it promises a staging with sex, drugs, vast wealth and family tragedy.

Turnage fashioned the score with a libretto by Richard Thomas, who previously wrote Jerry Springer: the Opera. The opera will be televised on BBC4. Would you see it if it came to New York?

What current or historical figure do you think would make for ideal operatic subject matter? Leave a comment below:


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Comments [20]

Michael Meltzer

Anna NIcole and her fame were entirely a product of Playboy and the tabloids, so she represents everything about us that is either adolescent or stupid. For that reason, many consider the idea of an opera about her offensive.
The question that has to be asked is, if she were a totally fictional character, would there be the same objection? I think not, I think the issue would be the literary and dramatic qualities of the libretto that created her. For that reason, I think the jury should remain out until the opening.

Feb. 20 2011 05:01 PM
mary from Michigan

Good point, tomfromsparta

Feb. 19 2011 09:41 AM
Frank Feldman

Like anything else, if it's good, I would see it. It's got a lot of potential for comedy, tragedy, social commentary-sex, drugs, lawyers, large breasts. Might even have a tune or two, who knows?

Feb. 18 2011 07:23 PM
Steve Thompson from NYC

Someone's got to be working on an opera about Madoff. Or Obama.

Feb. 18 2011 10:34 AM

If it's a good performance why not? it's art what matters

Feb. 18 2011 06:35 AM
Elaine Mack from Saudi Arabia

The music and entire production had better be really outstanding. Any weird, lurid story can be made convincing and compelling in the hands of a master composer and librettist. I suspect that this production is something to titillate bored audiences who have a driving need to see cleavage on a live stage without being seen at Hooters, but going to an opera to do the same feels "legit" to them. Whatever...

Feb. 18 2011 04:01 AM
Barry Owen Furrer

An opera on this subject could blossom into something quite titilating and deserves support - cross my heart.

Feb. 17 2011 07:37 PM
Craig Ash from Freeport, NY

Bravo, Tom from Sparta! Your position is exactly the one I was going to champion here. Anyone lookng at the exciting history of opera must acknowledge the capacity of the art (indeed any art worth its name) to handle unpleasant subject matter. No one bats an eye at "Il Tabarro," T "Salome," "L'Oracolo" or "Die Walkure" (the lovers are twins, after all), "Wozzeck," and "Lulu." As for capitalizing on the story of one recently dead, Alphonsine Duplessis was a well-known Parisian courtesan, turned into Camille (Alphonsine was known to love camellias) by Dumas, fils, and almost immediately into Violetta Valery by Verdi. And poor Dr. Kissinger, still alive, does not emerge from"Nixon in China" as a sympathetic character. If the libretto and music for the are compelling, "Nicole" will be worth seeing and hearing.

Feb. 17 2011 02:22 PM
John J. Christiano from Franklin NJ

Tomfromsparta...hey neighbor...You're right but we don't have those geniuses around anymore.

I'm afraid it would take someone on the level of a Verdi, Mascagni, Bizet, etc. to make the story work (if they would even touch it).

We would also need someone who would not think a rock band, flashing lights and fireworks would be needed to make it work.

This must have been a slow day in the opera factory.

Feb. 17 2011 12:43 PM
J. Evelyne Liebmann from Rye, NY

This is pure irony, think of it: a soap opera on the opera stage. I am not sure if this boosts opera or brings it down a peg, but it will create plenty of buzz in the general media. Is this any way to create a new audience for opera? No, I probably would not go to see it.

Feb. 17 2011 10:34 AM
Henry from NYC

I'll start by saying I was not sympathetic to the real Anna Nicole and don't know why anyone would bother to think about her any more. But, depending on how the story is told and, of course, what the music sounds like, this opera could be made to be compelling as sex, wealth, and tragedy are mainstays of opera. After all, opera is art and even the most distasteful subjects can be alluring if the artist is skillful. Why did the creators of this opera chose her? I would guess it's to stir up controversy. I doubt many opera fans are Anna Nicole (or Jerry Springer) fans. Personally, I dislike "shock art" often because it isn't shocking but simply annoying. And, if being annoying is art, I know a number undiscovered masters. I am not a fan of most modern (in the temporal sense) operas or music for that matter not because it is recent (who cares when the main character actually lived or died) but because the style(s) in which they are written do not appeal to me. From time to time, I wonder what would happen to a currant composer who wrote in a traditional style. Assuming his/her work is "good" would s/he be celebrated, ignored, or criticized for not pushing the envelope?

Feb. 17 2011 09:24 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane from BOONTON, NJ

The glamorizing of fad pop culture personages who are drug addicts, alcoholics, womanizers, murderers, pimps or other unfortunates may be dangerous to the very young and the easily misled to pursue that life style. The composers may turn out even masterpieces. If that were to be true, then let's hope that the composer would have a denouement in the opera's closing scene that does not glorify, but rather proclaims the tragedy and disaster of such a lifestyle.

Feb. 17 2011 08:47 AM
Arden Anderson-Broecking from Connecticut

No. First of all it's wrong to exploit someone whose life was tragic, and secondly, to glorify someone who doesn't deserve it.

Feb. 17 2011 07:34 AM
Andrea Pack from Astoria

"Nixon in China" was enough,
was enough,
was enough,
for me, me, me, me, me. me!

Feb. 17 2011 01:21 AM
June LeBell from Sarasota

Who's Anna Nicole???

Feb. 16 2011 11:36 PM
Frances Apgar from New York City

What an unfortunate name for an opera, or
so it seems.
Of course, it's all about the music basically
But, maybe this very sad story motivated the composer and he expressed it musically.

Feb. 16 2011 11:31 PM
Judith Oringer from New York City

I would definitely not see it.

Look at the radical differences between an opera like this one based on a sordid, sad story and the also-modern one just produced at the Met, "Nixon in China", based on a momentous political/cultural event with major figures on the international political scene (let alone the exciting, sometimes lyrical dramatic music).

Please--haven't we heard enough about "pop stars"? I hope this won't now mean that someone will soon write an opera based on the life of--Justin Bieber!

Feb. 16 2011 10:24 PM
Bonnie Dietrich

Not only is it distasteful to capitalize on her story so soon after her death, I think it's distasteful (not to mention offensive) to capitalize on her life story at all. Period.

Feb. 16 2011 09:48 PM

In Verdi's day the story of a demimondaine like "La Dame aux Caméllias" ("La Traviata") was just as scandalous as Anna Nicole Smith's story is perceived today. And of course Pietro Mascagni and Ruggiero Leoncavallo became famous writing operas about extramarital sex leading to murder, not many years after Georges Bizet had trouble getting "Carmen" past the censorship of the French Third Republic. We think of opera as "high art." We shouldn't. In Italy it has traditionally been popular entertainment, not always appealing to our nobler instincts. A rendering of Anna Nicole's story to opera is well within the operatic tradition, and I for one would be interested in seeing it. But the music had better be good!

Feb. 16 2011 09:14 PM
Robert Gevert from NYC

I'm not one of her fans!!!!! I think NOT.

Feb. 16 2011 06:43 PM

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