Royal Opera to focus on late tabloid queen

The fine line between opera and soap opera just got blurrier.

Britain’s Royal Opera said it is planning a show based on the life of Anna Nicole Smith, the model and stripper who married an octogenarian oil tycoon, starred in her own TV show and died of a drug overdose in 2007.

The company says the show will have music by respected British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage. The libretto is by Richard Thomas, co-creator of “Jerry Springer: The Opera,” an earlier merger of highbrow and lowbrow culture. It is due to run in the Royal Opera’s 2011 season.

The company’s director of opera, Elaine Padmore, told The Guardian newspaper the show “is not going to be tawdry; it is going to be witty, clever, thoughtful and sad.”

“It is not just a documentary about her, but a parable about celebrity and what it does to people,” she said.

Smith was Playboy’s Playmate of the Year in 1993, and the next year married 89-year-old J. Howard Marshall II. After his death the following year, she fought a protracted legal battle with his son over his estimated $500 million fortune.

Smith died at 39 in February 2007, five months after the death of her 20-year-old son from her first marriage. Daniel Smith died of an accidental overdose in the Bahamas hospital room where his mother had days earlier given birth to a daughter.

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