The idea of an opera based on the late American actor Anna Nicole Smith–one of the biggest sex symbols of our generation whose antics had made her the laughing stock of the Hollywood–seems like a cheap shot for doing something unique. And that coming from a major entity like Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House, makes one to question the reason behind such a choice for the show protagonist.
However, when the opera titled ‘Anna Nicole’ finally premiered at the Royal Opera in front of a full capacity crowd, the show turned out to be a highly captivating, extremely entertaining affair, and portrayed the life story of the controversial celebrity in a very touching way. The idea which raised many an eyebrow, proved to be an all out winner for the Covent Garden. It was observed that Anna Nicole-based opera, an idea which seemed a complete mismatch on first sight, actually was a perfect one from a technical standpoint. Anna Nicole’s life had multiple collaborative art forms in it and that is what opera is all about.
Composer Mark-Anthony Turnage’s jazz-influenced modern music gave the show a rhythm tic, but frequently wild score, perfectly resembling the story of Anna Nicole. Librettist Richard Thomas- the other half of the musical creators, also made a clever use of his libretto skills, which blended in with Turnage’s work. The conductor Antonio Pappano, who is also a jazz fan just like Turnage, extracted a thrilling, but delicate sound from the orchestra.
The central character is played by Eva-Maria Westbroek, whose first on-stage sight makes the audience think that it is the real Anna Nicole on whom they have set their eyes. The blond haired Westbroek’s role is peppered with melodic dialogues, and decorated with Anna Nicole-like loss of control over her emotions. Her performance in the opera should be considered nothing less than brilliant and commanding.
Turnage and Thomas’ selection of operatic characters were well-admired by the singers as well as the cast of the opera, evident by the tumultuous standing ovation that the audience gave to the cast at the end of the show.