Reviews round up: Anna Nicole Smith opera

Image caption,
Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek plays the late model

An opera based on the life of the late Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith has opened at London's The Royal Opera House.

Dutch Soprano Eva Maria Westbroek plays the star, who made headlines for marrying a rich octogenarian while still in her twenties.

Critics have delivered their mixed verdicts on the show.

Andrew Clements - The Guardian

The ending is undeniably tragic, but perversely unmoving, since most of the music (Mark-Anthony) 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.

It doesn't set out to be a complex or a subtle score, but it packs an irresistibly visceral punch.

Richard Jones' production is immaculately slick and deliciously imaginative. I loved the day-glo oranges and pinks of Miriam Buether's sets and the strange black insect creatures with cameras for heads who track Anna Nicole's every move.

In the title role, Eva-Maria Westbroek, singing with inexhaustible energy, gives a big-hearted, full-throttle performance which never strikes a false note of sentimentality.

It proved a weirdly inspired work, an engrossing, outrageous, entertaining and, ultimately, deeply moving new opera. This was an improbable triumph for Covent Garden.

Ideally, opera is supposed to be the ultimate collaborative art form, and Anna Nicole met that ideal.

As soon as the actual story began, the opera fell like a failed souffle. By deliberately opting for a TV-biopic approach, it became the latest entry in the lists of failed biographical operas.

It presented such events like items on a checklist, acted out by two-dimensional characters that never - despite a fine cast - came to life.

The show is most certainly provocative with its choice of language and, at times, explicit scenes but the question remains as to whether this is a true opera.

Although the singing is fantastic and the Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek is excellent as the story's buxom, tragic heroine, the music is less memorable.

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