It’s a bit strange to say the first opera I have ever seen is one based on the life of a hillbilly Texan famous for marrying a guy 62 years older than her. It’s even stranger to say that I saw this opera not in the United States, but in London, England. And finally, it’s absolutely ridiculous to think about, that said opera wasn’t put on in some controversy causing small opera house looking for a quick buck, but in one of the most famous theaters in the world. Alas, such is the life I live.
Tuesday night I went to see the opera Ana Nicole at the Royal Opera House in the Covent Garden are of London. And just in case you weren’t completely sure, yes, it is that Ana Nicole (Smith), the loopy and rather large woman who had her own show on E! and died four years ago, still fighting tooth and nail for her inheritance from her second husband, 80 something year-old billionaire Howard Marshall. Before we get to the play itself, it is imperative to point out the magnificence of the theatre itself. It is imposing from the outside, combining the classic architecture of the Roman columns while adding in a modern facade. Once inside, it was. . . a bit confusing.
The layout of the theatre is such that it is quit difficult tonavigate your way around. Plus, unlike all theaters I’ve ever been in, there was no main “lobby” upon entering. No, instead you had to go up a flight of stairs to find the most elegant lobby I have ever seen. I felt like a part of some movie or special event just being in it. It was packed to the gills with all sorts of fancily dressed people drinking wine and champagne and having a merry old time. Basically, it was exactly how you would imagine an upper class crowd to be like. Unfortunately, the bells were already chiming when I got in, signaling the 10 minute to go mark. I got in my seat and this is what I saw for the next 2 and a half hours.
Not the greatest seats ever, but nothing to complain about here. I brought my glasses finally (hooray!!) so for once I could see more than just blurry figures moving around. A definite plus. The opera itself was rather interesting. I liked it quite a bit because it was both funny and clever while maintaining a seriousness throughout. In fact, by the end I think it would be safe to call it a tragedy instead of a comedy. However, I could definitely see why people, especially hardcore opera aficionados, wouldn’t like it.
First off, it was more musical than opera. Yes there were no spoken words and everything was sung in an opera like way, but the subject itself, being so modern and all, lends itself to a much less rarified air. The tunes are a bit catchy and there is choreography throughout. Being a newbie to the opera scene, this was a perfect transition. Another reason some might not like it was the language. Wow. I think I had to clean my ears after listening to that. It was just swear after swear after swear. I liked that and thought it was funny, but I could just imagine some uppity old British guy taking off his monocle in disgust at the foul language. Finally, some might not like it because it truly is sad. When you go to see a show like this you expect to see bright lights and costumes and laughs all around (which you do get in the first act) and do not expect to feel sort of bad for Ana Nicole Smith. However, the writers did a good job of portraying her as the hapless blonde who got it all only to have it taken away. A line during one of the first songs of the second act has her asking her elderly husband who Icarus is (A Greek or Roman legend who flew too close to the sun only to have his wings burnt up and drown in the ocean). Much like Icarus, Ana Nicole Smith gets fried up and dies. Quite a sad ending.
All in all though, I would give the show 4.5 out of 5 stars. I was never close to falling asleep which automatically places it at a 4, quite lofty standards eh? It lost some pace at the end which kept it from being a 5, but it was a great show nonetheless. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to go.