Anna Nicole Opens in New York

New York City Opera's Anna Nicole(Photo: New York City Opera)
New York City Opera's Anna Nicole(Photo: New York City Opera)

Yes, boys and girls, the latest production from the teetering New York City Opera at the splendid Brooklyn Academy of Music is the life of one Vickie Lynn Hogan of Mextaxia, Texas. Friends in the right places and some robust plastic surgery created Anna Nicole Smith out of Vicky Lynn. Marriage to an 89-year-old billionaire gave her access to money and a backache from silicone implants.

Mark Anthony Turnage’s opera Anna Nicole was suspected of being opportunistic trash when it opened at the Royal Opera last year. Did the Queen attend? Instead we get loose morals, loose living, a jazz inspired score and a libretto by Richard Thomas that keeps the sadness and sorrow of such a life front and center.

Today’s New York Times was impressed by the opera and the production. Anthony Tomassini writes “Every time the piece threatens to turn into smutty humor, the creators..tap the depth and sadness of Anna’s story….The prodcution should not be missed.”

All the more reason to be furious at the impending demise of the 70-year-old New York City Opera. Director George Steel moved the company out of Lincoln Center, its home since 1966. The “people’s opera,” where great American operas were premiered, home to American artists presented at popular prices, needs $6 million in the next month to survive. There’s even a Kickstarter campaign. Early reports are not good.

Thousands love the New York City Opera and have supported it over the years. The silence now is a vote of no confidence to a misguided management. Today’s New York City Opera bears little resemblance to the home of Beverly Sills, Samuel Ramey, Norman Treigle and Frank Corsaro.

And yet, Anna Nicole is a daring opera, well performed. It just goes to show you what’s consistently possible with strong leadership in place.

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