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Russell Platt
The New Yorker, January 2012

11 Recordings for 2011

Turnage’s piece isn’t for the ages, but it’s undeniably entertaining, a perfect opera for the good ship Now. Newcomer Eva-Marie Westbroek, with mammoth fake breasts strung around her torso, sails away with the title role; the celebrated bass-baritone Gerald Finley takes the part of Smith’s manipulative lawyer-lover in his stride. © 2012 The New Yorker Read complete review

Michael Quinn
The Classical Review, December 2011

TURNAGE, M.A.: Anna Nicole (Royal Opera House, 2011) (NTSC) OA1054D
TURNAGE, M.A.: Anna Nicole (Royal Opera House, 2011) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7088D

the result was guaranteed to be coruscating and colorful in equal measure. Seldom have high art and low art collided so entertainingly. © 2011 The Classical Review See complete list

Robert Benson, December 2011

This opera recreates the life of the tragic figure, skipping quickly over the many years when the estate was in the courts and ending with the death of Anna’s son and her own drug-induced demise. Turnage’s score is well-suited for the subject contrasting moments of hilarity with the pathos of Anna’s life. Often there are traces of Kurt Weill, with jazzy and often very bawdily suggestive Broadway-style songs and choruses. It is unfortunate Richard Thomas has elected to overemphasize the campy elements of the story. Anna Nicole Smith fits in well with other doomed operatic divas, including Carmen, Violetta and Salome. The performance is superb. Soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek is outstanding in the challenging title role, the reliable Gerald Finley is perfection as the slimy lawyer who coaxes her into degradation. Conductor Antonio Pappano again shows his expertise in the operatic world. © 2011 Classical CD Review Read complete review

National Public Radio, December 2011

Deceptive Cadence 2011 Holiday Gift Guide

you can’t deny the strong performances, especially by Eva-Maria Westbroek in the title role. © 2011 Deceptive Cadence/National Public Radio See complete list

Arlo McKinnon
Opera News, December 2011

TURNAGE, M.A.: Anna Nicole (Royal Opera House, 2011) (NTSC) OA1054D
TURNAGE, M.A.: Anna Nicole (Royal Opera House, 2011) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7088D

Composer Mark-Anthony Turnage…and librettist Richard Thomas…make a winning team, fashioning a compelling tragedy from this sordid story in the tradition of grand opera. 

…this operatic assessment of her life is both thorough and thought-provoking. © Opera News Read complete review

Richard Fairman
Gramophone, November 2011

the whole cast is excellent…the opera is a…compelling one nonetheless.

Robert Tomas
The WholeNote, November 2011

Richard Thomas (who also created “Jerry Springer – the Opera”) seizes upon all the tabloid angles, but never loses sight of our tragic heroine. The choir, on-stage from the overture on, initially is just a Greek chorus. It quickly becomes a flock of media vultures, ready to report on the slightest non-event and to destroy Anna Nicole’s camera-seeking life in the process. You cannot help feeling as sorry for the fame obsessed small-town girl as you would for Cio Cio San. Large credit goes to Eva-Maria Westbroek’s sensational performance; Gerald Finley, who is clearly Covent Garden’s audience favourite, lends his beautiful baritone to the role of the sleazy lawyer Stern and Susan Bickley, is forced to be a modern-day Cassandra, predicting the gloom.

Turnage’s music, never very easy, gains on second hearing and is ably assisted by a rhythm section including John Paul Jones (of Led Zeppelin, I kid you not!). Should you see it? Yes! Besides, where else can you hear a soprano aria “Get me the f**k out of here!”?

Wade Davis
Operagasm, October 2011

Mark-Anthony Turnage has turned out a wonderfully modern and poignant score to Richard Thomas’s libretto and these roles are not for play! Finley as Stern is just as imperious and full of himself as Mozart’s Count Almaviva and Susan Bickley gives you a knockout performance as Anna’s mother forced to watch her daughter’s poor life choices get the best of her. The role of Anna would certainly tempt any diva today including Renee Fleming, Anna Netrebko, or Deborah Voight as it sits right in the middle with a few excursions into the stratosphere. The curious and mercurial moods in the beginning and quick rise make for a sad, inevitable downfall of our heroine. All in all, this may be a one-hit wonder, but what a wonder it is. Read complete review

David Gordon, October 2011

Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek is marvelous in the title role of Mark-Anthony Turnage and Richard Thomas’ compelling and poignant opera about the life and death of American model Anna Nicole Smith. Richard Jones’ grandiose, neon-colored production for the Royal Opera, with extraordinary costumes by Nicky Gillibrand, is nicely directed for the screen by Francesca Kempe, who captures the electricity of Westbroek’s heartbreaking Anna Nicole, a woman seemingly destroyed by the prying media and her enabling lawyer.

Jason Victor Serinus
San Francisco Classical Voice, September 2011

TURNAGE, M.A.: Anna Nicole (Royal Opera House, 2011) (NTSC) OA1054D
TURNAGE, M.A.: Anna Nicole (Royal Opera House, 2011) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7088D

Act 1 of the opera presents one high-powered, four-letter explosion after another…Act 2 presents a far more musically nuanced portrayal of Smith in decline. Indeed, the second act is so sobering, tragic, and moving that it helps put the super-octane overdrive of the first act in perspective.

At the opera’s center stands the incredible singing and acting of Eva-Maria Westbroek. …Westbroek is absolutely sensational on every level.

Equally intense are Susan Bickley…and Alan Oke as Marshall. The rest of the cast is excellent.

Prudes should run for cover, ’cause almost everything in this opera is out in the open. Everyone else has gotta see it.

John von Rhein
The Classical Review, September 2011

TURNAGE, M.A.: Anna Nicole (Royal Opera House, 2011) (NTSC) OA1054D
TURNAGE, M.A.: Anna Nicole (Royal Opera House, 2011) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7088D

Everything, including the staging of the British director Richard Jones, with its garishly-colored production design, is excessive. Which is precisely the point: Who was Anna Nicole but an odiously over-the-top creation of the tacky, sensation-seeking American pop culture that produced her?

The admirable Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek brings lyrical luster and dramatic thrust to the titular heroine, fully inhabiting her character right down to a convincing Texas accent. The Canadian baritone Gerald Finley looks rather too much like a nice-guy hero-type to be fully convincing as Stern, Anna’s sleazoid lawyer-lover, but his singing and acting also cannot be faulted.

Of the supporting players, one must reserve special commendation for Susan Bickley as Anna’s long-suffering mother, Virgie.

Conductor Antonio Pappano and his fine orchestra and chorus throw themselves very capably into the flamboyant spirit of the proceedings. The audience appear to be enjoying themselves immensely. Picture and sound quality are excellent.

…snap it up while you can. The opera is a raunchy good romp.

David Nice
The Arts Desk, August 2011

TURNAGE, M.A.: Anna Nicole (Royal Opera House, 2011) (NTSC) OA1054D
TURNAGE, M.A.: Anna Nicole (Royal Opera House, 2011) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7088D

…fabulous dramatic soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek charms us from the start…and keeps us radiant-bemused company through the trajectory of Anna Nicole’s life…the ensemble work and the look of Jones’s note-perfect production, with the quick lighting changes of Mimi Jordan Sherin and DM Wood coming up exceptionally well on screen, that will keep it companionable on multiple viewings….make no mistake: Anna Nicole the opera is here to stay.

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