I haven't seen a lot of opera with friends, because most of them aren't that into it. After one of my closest pals decided to go and see The Tsar's Bride at the Royal Opera House, I took her to see the Royal College of Music's Cosi Fan Tutte, which I think she enjoyed. I have a male friend I've known since university who came to Welsh National Opera's The Magic Flute with me and more recently to Jonathan Dove's new opera Mansfield Park, but on the whole, my friends are opera sceptics and opera virgins. That's why I was quite surprised when a few people I know who 'don't do opera' confessed to me that they'd watched (and enjoyed) Anna Nicole when the Royal Opera House production was broadcast on BBC4 earlier this year.
I would have loved to have gone to ROH to see Anna Nicole in the flesh- I considered it, and thought of buying a friend of mine a ticket to come with me, but in the end I settled for watching it on television and sort of regretted it. I had expected to like it (I'm not precious about opera and am offended by very little) but I hadn't expected to love it as much as I did. I was so entertained and so moved in places (the scene where Anna has lost her son and climbs into a body bag had me sobbing) and the performances from Eva Maria Westbroek, Gerald Finley and the rest of the cast were amazing. The music was really special too- I really liked the jazz elements that Turnage worked into the score, and I thought the way it went right back to the origins of opera with a Greek Tragedy style chorus was so clever.
I guess my friends liked Anna Nicole because it was modern- a story that they were familar with, sung in a language they could understand. The pink, sparkly look of the whole thing was very visually stimualting, and I think that although it annoyed a lot of ROH stalwarts, it showed a lot of opera newbies that the art form isn't stale and boring, but constantly evolving and telling stories relevant to them.