(Above: Sarah Joy Miller as Anna Nicole Smith in the New York City Opera performance of Anna Nicole at BAM's Next Wave Festival)
Tuesday night marked the U.S. premiere of the opera Anna Nicole at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), kicking off the Academy's 31st annual Next Wave Festival. The festival spotlights, "exciting new works and cross-disciplinary collaborations by promising young artists."
Time Warner is a longtime supporter of BAM, and a proud sponsor of its Next Wave Festival, which runs through December 22. For a complete schedule of performances, visit BAM's website.
BAM pulled out all the stops for an over-the-top Anna Nicole- themed opening night. At the pre-theater gala dinner, tables were strewn with feather boas, large costume jewelry, and pink roses. Gift boxes at the tables included some of Anna Nicole's favorite things - vodka, BBQ sauce, lip gloss and chocolates. The menu even featured a dessert prepared with one of Anna Nicole's favorite foods - popcorn.
The story of one woman's warped pursuit of the American dream; Anna Nicole is a seamless blend of highbrow story-telling and low-brow celebrity culture. The opera is downright campy - from prosthetic breasts that are comically large to the oversized, swimming pool-sized mattress in which Anna Nicole and her elderly husband sleep. But it's also beautiful – from the operatic singing to the dramatic display in which her son, and she herself died under the watchful gaze of media attention. You walk away realizing, incredibly, that this was someone's real life - and it was both comic and tragic.
Like many opera performances, translations are projected overhead so you can follow along even if you can't understand the song lyrics. Sarah Joy Miller as Anna Nicole shows real stamina during the two-and-a-half hour performance. Her southern accent and eccentric mannerisms endearing and spot-on to depictions of the much-loved and much-derided icon. The large cast works together cohesively and the eclectic score is expertly delivered by the New York City Opera orchestra and chorus.
Anna Nicole runs through September 29. Tickets are available at BAM.org.
A scene from the opera, Anna Nicole now playing at BAM's Next Wave Festival
Richard Troxell as Doctor Yes in Anna Nicole