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Posted at 1:12 PM ET, 02/17/2011

Anna Nicole, the opera

By Anne Midgette

At 2 pm today (Thursday) on WNYC's Soundcheck, I discuss tonight's premiere of "Anna Nicole," the opera, with John Schaefer.
Read all about it tomorrow.

Edited to add: I was really rooting for this one. Alas, it wasn't very good.
Royal Opera House's "Anna Nicole" fails to transform biopic into art, by Anne Midgette.

Other views (on the whole, more positive than not):
In the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini liked it a lot.
Jessica Duchen in the Independent was also very positive. (And gets points for speed.)
Rupert Christiansen in The Telegraph thinks it's going to be a hit.
Blogger/critic/provocateur Norman Lebrecht enjoyed the evening a lot more than I did, but his final conclusion accords with mine.
Andrew Clements of The Guardian saw the same show I did.
So did Mike Silverman of the Associated Press.
Edited to add:
Mark Swed weighs in in the Los Angeles Times.
The Financial Times's Andrew Clark really hated it.

And TMZ reports that Anna Nicole Smith's estate is considering legal action. This can only help sales at the box office.

By Anne Midgette  | February 17, 2011; 1:12 PM ET
Categories:  news, opera  
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Comments

Anne, I'm with you, let 'em create operas (and symphonies or tone poems for that matter) that are contemporary or "documentary" in nature. Shakespeare's "histories" were popular, I suppose in part because everyone wanted to see how his version of history turned out! So, why not opera "histories" as well as comedies and tragedies?

Today's opera houses "update" their settings in attempts to be topical and relevant (like the Colorado Opera "Rigoletto" in 2005, set in recent times with the Duke a Mafia Don, or the more recent Met "Salome" with everyone in black tie and evening gowns, sipping martinis). It seems natural to take it to the next step.

Opera can do what documentary film/tv cannot, however: provide emotional content and comment to the proceedings (if done right). As such, it takes documentary to the next level - perhaps exploring the metaphor, or symbolism, or moral to be found in all our everyday lives.

Art gives us something that is greater than the sum of its parts, and ennobles us.

So, when do we get "Anne", the Opera?

-Ron

Posted by: rnadel | February 17, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm grateful to you, not only for sharing your perspective on the new work, but also for making it so easy for me to sample other critics' opinions. That's a generous gesture to your readers, and a breath of fresh air. Here's hoping others follow your example.

Posted by: WilliamMadison | February 18, 2011 5:37 AM | Report abuse

Did the Post really fly Midgette, and the Times Tommasini, to London just to review this opera? What an absurd waste of money.

Posted by: geddaisgod | February 18, 2011 12:57 PM | Report abuse

The LA Times sent its critic, Mark Swed, to London as well. He agrees with Anne:

"The performances were very good. Westbroek’s Wagnerian chops served her well, her ill-fitting mammary prosthesis not so well."

Posted by: GRILLADES | February 18, 2011 9:54 PM | Report abuse

More positive reviews:

"It's often very funny, but it's not just a crude farce with a downbeat ending:
I think it is underpinned by genuine compassion for Anna Nicole and genuine
scorn for the forces that mould, and then destroy her." "I'll eat my six-gallon hat if it's not a stonking great hit."
Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph opera critic

"'Immaculately slick and deliciously imaginative' production and a score that
'packs an irresistibly visceral punch.'

"Right topic, right time: Anna Nicole overtly puts America on trial: it reminds
us that we had it all, but we threw it away. She's not only a tragic heroine:
she's the rise and fall of Western excess itself."
Jessica Duchen in the Independent


"I wouldn't be surprised if this sardonic fable for our times finds a second
life on screen or in the West End."
Richard Morrison, The Times


"By turns riotous and sorrowful, farcical and principled, the opera set Covent
Garden ablaze... drawing gasps, laughter, and stunned smiles in the first half,
before moving to a pathos-filled, even profound, denouement."
Stephen Graham, MusicalCriticism.com

Posted by: YesHeCan | February 19, 2011 6:51 AM | Report abuse

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