Composer Mark-Anthony Turnage and librettist Richard Thomas have created an opera where the Playboy Playmate, gold-digger, and reality TV star Anna Nicole is the central tragic heroine.
Originally commissioned by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where Richard Jones’ salacious production premiered in 2011, the opera Anna Nicole made its U.S. premiere this week as a partnership of the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the financially troubled New York City Opera.
Thomas previously created the unconventional British success, Jerry Springer:The Opera in 2003. In both Springer and Anna, stories focus on the pathetic lives of American’s and their ability to pick themselves out of the muck and succeed.
Anna is sung by the soprano Sarah Joy Miller. On stage throughout, the opera explores without shying away from the best and worst of Anna’s tragic life. From her teen years as a high school dropout, to her redneck family, and her first marriage .
After working at a local Walmart, the former supermodel, begins working at a Gentleman”s Club.” The audience learns how Nicole discovered the lesson that bigger breasts equals bigger tips, and promptly gets a couple implants. When she scores the bullseye of a rich oilman 62 years her senior, J. Howard Marshall II, played by Robert Brubaker, the now voluptuous Anna Nicole declares, “I’m gonna rape the goddamn American dream!”
Is this what opera has come to? Perhaps it’s the ‘plebilization’ in the highest art form. But hey, Shakespeare had the groundlings, the lowly audience members who couldn’t afford seats, maybe we have pop-culture stars as divas.
Venue: BAM Howard Gillman Opera House, Brooklyn, New York (runs through Sept. 28)