Crowd, Critics Weigh In on Anna Nicole Smith Opera

Eva-Maria Westbroek, with prosthetic breasts, as Anna Nicole Smith.
Eva-Maria Westbroek, with prosthetic breasts, as Anna Nicole Smith.
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The critics have responded to London's Royal Opera House production of Anna Nicole, the much anticipated new opera by composer Mark-Anthony Turnage and librettist Richard Thomas (Jerry Springer: The Opera), and the results are mixed as expected. Audience reaction, on the other hand, was overwhelmingly positive, with the New York Times' Anthony Tommasini reporting: "The ovations were tumultuous."

According to reviews, at least two key scenes in the opera take place in Houston, one at a fried chicken joint and the other at a strip club. Nice.

Click ahead for video of the premiere and more critical reaction.

New York Times:

"...it proved a weirdly inspired work, an engrossing, outrageous, entertaining and, ultimately, deeply moving new opera."

"Rising to the challenge, Ms. Westbroek gives a vocally commanding and emotionally courageous performance."

"The London audience ate it up. But so did I, because in the end this is a musically rich, audacious and inexplicably poignant work."

Los Angeles Times:

"The heavy-breasted tabloid queen is a subject more tawdry than most, and she gets a tawdry, if entertaining, opera to match."

"The opera is full of wisecracks, sexual references and four-letter words. Caricatures of Texas white trash, jiggling big-breasted women and a lecherous old man abound."

"...Americans might object to the opera's lack of a woman's point of view and its general dismissal of substance. But it is the libretto's toilet talk that will probably be a deal breaker with any major [American] company."

The Washington Post:

"The hope for "Anna Nicole" was that the creators - Mark-Anthony Turnage, a major compositional voice in classical music today with a bad-boy streak, and Richard Thomas, whose last pop-culture venture was "Jerry Springer: The Opera" - would transform their subject into effective theater. Instead, the material ended up mastering them. They documented Anna Nicole's life with dogged persistence, but they neglected to provide one piece of information: why anybody should care."

The Guardian:

"The ending is undeniably tragic, but perversely unmoving, since most of the music Turnage provides for her never suggests or seems to look for sympathy."

"There are very few moments when the drama is driven by the music, when the cartoon-like scenes, with cliche texts and schoolboy humour, are given shape and purpose by Turnage's contribution."


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