Royal Opera House to put on Anna Nicole Smith’s life

Mar 11, 2010
Rachel Helyer-Donaldson

Life of the former Playboy model to be turned into an opera by Jerry Springer musical creator

Playboy centrefold model Anna Nicole Smith, who died in 2007 after an apparent accidental overdose of prescription drugs, is to be immortalised in an opera.

Anna Nicole will be staged by London's Royal Opera House and is being composed by Mark-Anthony Turnage, the co-creator of the controversial Jerry Springer: The Opera. The Dutch-born Eva-Maria Westbroek, one of the world's leading sopranos, will play Smith.

Although the Texan-born stripper-turned-reality TV star might seem an unlikely subject for an opera, Smith's life was full of dramatic ups and downs. Born Vicki Lynn Hogan, Anna Nicole was married by the age of 17 to Billy Wayne Smith, a 16-year-old cook at the fried chicken restaurant where she worked after dropping out of high school. The couple had a son, Daniel, but separated in 1987 after just two years of marriage. Smith married 89-year-old Texas billionaire J Howard Marshall in 1994.

Following stints as a Playboy Playmate and fashion model - Smith famously deposed Claudia Schiffer as the face of Guess's jeans ad campaign - Anna Nicole set about carving out a career in film and television. In 2002 she debuted in her own reality TV series, The Anna Nicole Show.

The opera's writer Richard Thomas said yesterday that the production will end with Smith's death in a Florida hotel room at the age of 39 - conveniently avoiding the later tawdry court battle over the disposal of her remains and the paternity battle over her baby daughter.

Her demise came shortly after the birth of her daughter, Dannielynn, and the death of her 20-year-old son, Daniel. At the time she was embroiled in a long-running legal battle with Marshall's family to claim a share of her late husband's estate.

The ROH is billing the February 17 2011 world premiere of Anna Nicole as "a major event in the UK arts calendar". However the opera house might want to take heed of the last attempt to tell the story of Smith's life. A 2007 movie, The Anna Nicole Smith Story, starring US singer Willa Ford, went straight to video.

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