Opera’s for middle-aged middle-class wimps, isn’t it? Men who wear cardigans and women who only shop at Waitrose. Not always.
Anna Nicole was a 15-minute Warhol American celebrity. Single mother, briefly married to a fast food cook, no money, bumping and grinding her way round the pole-dancing circuit in Houston, flirting with “escort” work. Her adviser (his occupation is best summarised in a short word beginning with p) said her advancement depended on having a monster boob job. This she did.
Married a nonagenarian squillionaire oil-man who thought she talked purty. He died in flagrante. Her life dissolved into litigation, television stunts, drugs and death.
An everyday story of Texan folk. Suitable for opera? Well, why not? But, see, it’s got to be authentic and that means demotic parlance. No, not just the familiar, old Anglo-Saxon stuff. We’re talking the gamut of modern-day naughty words, with full descriptions of the activities and sometimes even their simulation. You mean, even…? Not only that, but also…! No! Good grief!
Well Mark Turnage who’s had work performed at the Munich Biennale and Aldeburgh and whose oeuvre includes opera, choral works, chamber music and instrumental pieces wrote the music, and Richard Thomas the words. The Royal Opera House in London (better known as Covent Garden) put it on and Mr and Mrs LdP watched it on telly.
One amusing point. A very familiar (short) word, sung at full blast by the singers, appears asterisked in the sub-titles.
But do you know? The whole thing wasn’t half bad. It wouldn’t figure in our Top Ten Operas For Beginners but it’s proof that modern music can handle modern themes. Made me feel sort of grown-up. Erotic? Far less so than, say, Carmen, for which much thanks.