Thomas, best known to theatregoers for the multi award-winning and ever-controversial operatic take of Jerry Springer, has written the libretto for the new work, teaming up with British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage, whose previous operas include Greek and The Silver Tassie. Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek will star as the buxom blonde in the premiere production, directed Richard Jones, with ROH music director Antonio Pappano conducting.
Born (as Vickie Lynn Marshall) and raised in Texas, Smith dropped out of high school at 17 to marry early and embark on a career as a glamour model and subsequent Playboy Playmate of the Year. She gained notoriety for her second marriage to oil tycoon J Howard Marshall, an octogenarian 63 years older. When he died, she became involved in a bitter legal battle with his family over inheritance. Her high-living celebrity lifestyle was also captured on a reality TV series, The Anna Nicole Show, which ran for two seasons.
She died of an apparent drugs overdose in 2007 at the age of 39, just months after the death of her 20-year-old son. A custody battle for her baby daughter ensued after Smith’s death.
In a past interview with Whatsonstage.com (See Interviews, 31 Mar 2008), Thomas explained his fascination with Smith and similar “trashy” subjects: “Anna Nicole Smith’s tragic life story is a classic American tale about celebrity and the price you pay for trying to escape your roots – it’s intrinsically operatic! People tell me I should write about something ‘worthy’. So I’m going to write an opera about Mother Teresa? Never. It’s inverted snobbery. I like to choose subjects that seem trashy. I find them fascinating and, as you explore them, you learn so much. For instance, did you know that Houston is the breast enhancement capital of the world?”
Ahead of Anna Nicole, Thomas will turn his attention from opera to dance with his new comic collaboration with choreographer Stephen Mear about footwear fetishes (songs include “Vex in the City”). Shoes premieres at Sadler’s Wells in September (See News, 8 Feb 2010).
Other opera highlights in the ROH 2010/2011 season, announced today, include: world premieres of a biblical work by James Macmillan directed by Katie Mitchell, Promised End based on King Lear and a re-imagining of Paradise Lost; the UK premiere of Philip Glass’ In the Penal Colongy based on a Kafka short story about an execution machine; new productions of Adriana Lecouvreur, Tannhauser, The Tsar’s Bride and Cendrillon; and revivals of Cosi fan tutte, Don Pasquale, Rigoletto, Die Zauberflote, Aida, Hansel und Gretel, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Madama Butterfly, Werther, Macbeth, Tosca, Romeo et Juliette, Fidelio and Peter Grimes.
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The Royal Opera House is also home to the Royal Ballet. Dance highlights of the new season include: the Royal Ballet’s first new full-length ballet commission in 15 years, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon and co-produced with the National Ballet of Canada; new pieces by Wayne McGregor, Kim Brandstrup and Aletta Collins; presentations of Onegin, Sylvia, Cinderella, Giselle, Swan Lake and Manon; several mixed programmes; and Christmas offerings of Peter and the Wolf, Les Patineurs, Tales of Beatrix Potter and Faeries.
For more Dance coverage, visit www.whatsonstage.com/dance