Thursday, February 12, 2009

From the Folks Who Made an Opera of Jerry Springer

Whatever the opinions of Richard Faiman may be, apparently it is not all bread-and-butter at the Royal Opera House. Shortly after reading his review of their current production of Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto, I encountered this report by Alastair Jamieson on the London Telegraph Web site regarding plans for a new opera about Anna Nicole Smith:

Her controversial relationships, court battles over the paternity of her children and the sudden death of her 20-year-old son will among the dramatic twists in a libretto written by the co-creator of Jerry Springer The Opera.

The anti-heroine is considered by artistic directors at the Covent Garden venue to be a relevant character in a tale of modern times. The project is part of the Royal Opera House policy of staging a new opera on the main stage approximately every two years, with recent premieres including Harrison Birtwistle's Minotaur, and Thomas Adès' The Tempest.

Elaine Padmore, Covent Garden's director of opera told The Guardian. "It is not going to be tawdry; it is going to be witty, clever, thoughtful and sad. In broad outline, it will tell the story of her life, the people who influenced her, her progress ... Clearly the story is about a woman who met an ancient gentleman in a wheelchair, but it's not going to be a straight narrative; choices have been made about significant moments, selecting which incidents in her life are to be built up."

The opera will be written by Mark-Anthony Turnage, one of the most celebrated names of British contemporary music, with the libretto provided by Richard Thomas.

Ms Padmore added: "It is not just a documentary about her, but a parable about celebrity and what it does to people. It can be moving, it can be funny and it tells universal truths about human frailty.

"It is a very sad story - a larger-than-life American story, as was Puccini's Girl of the Golden West. It will be a slice of our times - of America in the pre-Obama days."

Needless to say, this will be a big gamble that will probably derive more from the apparent success of Jerry Springer The Opera than from any connection to any of the other operas named in this account. San Francisco probably knows Turnage best from the end of the last season of the San Francisco Symphony, when Benjamin Shwartz conducted his Three Asteroids, which I described in terms of "the world of Hollywood vulgarity" and the slogan for the Godzilla remake: SIZE MATTERS. Far be it from me to play up the extent to which this slogan may be applied to Anna Nicole (not to mention that The Fugs might have provided a more appropriate score for an opera project)!

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