Interesting article in yesterday’s Washington Post about documentary operas, or “docu-operas,” currently hitting the stage both here and abroad. They include a new production of John Adams’ Nixon in China (right) at the Metropolitan,The Gonzales Cantata, in Baltimore (based on the senate testimony of GWB attorney general Alberto Gonzales), and intriguingly (or laughingly, depending on your point of view), a debut based on the life of Anna Nicole Smith: yes, Anna Nicole: The Opera, at London’s Royal Opera House.
The last was conceived and actually has cred thanks to a score by the prolific and respected composer Mark-Anthony Turnage, and one can imagine the jaw-dropping among opera devotees that will ensue if even some of the advance is to be believed. (In search of younger audiences and all that.)
Anyway, it occurs to me that one of the most iconic of opera personalities would be a natural for the “doc-op” category, and that’s Maria Callas, making for a symbiosis of life and art in the truest of senses. There was a Tony-award winning play, Master Class, back in 1996 about the legendary soprano (being revived on Broadway this May, with Tyne Daly as Callas…yikes!), yet it just seems like her story is rich in possibilities to be explored within this newly popular subset of the opera genre. (I can see Aristotle Onassis as a Scarpia-like character, can’t you?) Just a matter of time, I guess…
[Postscript: Anna Nicole debuted (2/17) at Covent Garden. Reviews were mixed, but Anthony Tommasini in the New York Times called it "a weirdly inspired work... engrossing, outrageous, entertaining and, ultimately, deeply moving."]
[Postscript #2: Apologies for any skepticism conveyed in advance of Tyne Daly appearing as Maria Callas in the revival of Master Class. Her opening night performance (7/7) has garnered kudos all 'round, with Ben Brantley in the Times noting it as "one of the most haunting portraits I’ve seen of life after stardom." ]