Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Opening at BAM on Sept. 17, the highly anticipated U.S. premiere engagement of Anna Nicole, co-produced by BAM and New York City Opera, will portray the flamboyant life and tragic death of Anna Nicole Smith. An opera by composer Mark-Anthony Turnage and librettist Richard Thomas, the production is directed by Richard Jones with 66 members of the New York City Opera Orchestra, conducted by Steven Sloane.
Anna Nicole tells the story of Anna Nicole Smith, a small-town Texas waitress (and later, exotic dancer) in pursuit of the American Dream. Smith wed an octogenarian billionaire and became a Playboy model and tabloid celebrity, living a life of excess and substance abuse under the constant glare of the media until her death at the age of 39. This dynamic production mixes comedy and tragedy and boldly confronts issues of modern celebrity, greed, and exploitation.
The opera features Sarah Joy Miller (Anna Nicole), James Barbour (Daddy Hogan, Anna Nicole’s father), Susan Bickley (Virgie, Anna Nicole’s mother), Robert Brubaker (J. Howard Marshall II, Anna Nicole’s second husband), Ben Davis (Billy, Anna Nicole’s first husband), John Easterlin (Larry King, a television journalist) and Rod Gilfry (Stern, Anna Nicole’s lawyer), among others.
The production’s jazz trio features Peter Erskine (drums), Lincoln Schleifer (bass/mandolin), and Nir Felder (guitar/mandolin).
Commissioned by London’s Royal Opera House, Anna Nicole premiered at Covent Garden in February, 2011 under the direction of Richard Jones. The Times (UK) called it “jazzy, bitter-sweet, fizzing, moody and often touchingly tender.” The New York Times said, “Mr. Turnage’s music is the primary reason that so much seemed so right in Anna Nicole…in the end this is a musically rich, audacious and inexplicably poignant work.”
Turnage’s dynamic score draws on jazz, blues, musical theater, and traditional operatic structures; Thomas (co-creator, Jerry Springer: the Opera) provides the razor-sharp and darkly humorous libretto.
The production includes seven performances at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, on Sept. 17, 19, 21, 24, 25, 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m. Individual tickets are on sale at BAM.org or through BAM Ticket Services at 718.636.4100.
The BAM Howard Gilman Opera House is located at 30 Lafayette Ave. in Fort Greene.