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Larry Birkhead not pleased with 'Anna Nicole' opera in London

February 18, 2011 |  5:01 pm


"Anna Nicole," the new opera by Mark-Anthony Turnage that opened this week in London, chronicles the rise and fall of a tabloid diva whose life was a maelstrom of controversy and legal drama. Now the opera itself has attracted its own controversy, though just how serious it is remains uncertain at this point.

Larry Birkhead, the father of Anna Nicole Smith's daughter, Dannielynn, has spoken out against the opera production, telling the website TMZ that he is exploring the possibility of legal action. Reuters later reported that Birkhead is weighing "legal options to see if they misused Anna's image and likeness."

Birkhead was also quoted in Britain's Daily Mail as saying that "no one ever gave us a chance to respond. They didn't even ask to check whether history is correct. They could have picked up the phone and called... It is like someone took a bunch of tabloids and threw it at the producers and said, 'see what you can do with this.'"

"Anna Nicole," which opened Thursday at the Royal Opera House in London, stars soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek as Smith. The production is directed by Richard Jones and features a libretto by Richard Thomas.

A spokesman for the Royal Opera House declined to address Birkhead's accusations. However, the spokesman issued a prepared statement from Elaine Padmore, director of the opera company, saying that there are "no images of the real Anna Nicole Smith in any aspect of the production or its marketing."

Here is the company's statement in its entirety:

"The audience who attended last night's opening of the opera Anna Nicole left with the overwhelming sense of sympathy for Anna Nicole, exactly as we hoped.  The opera was inspired by a true story, some characters have been invented, some events imagined or changed. There are no images of the real Anna Nicole Smith in any aspect of the production or its marketing.  We gained permission to use a number of images of Anna Nicole Smith in the production's souvenir programme.  The opera has been created by the combined talents of our writer, composer, director, designer, cast and musicians."


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Anna Nicole Smith, the opera?

-- David Ng

Photo (top): A scene from "Anna Nicole" at the Royal Opera House in London. Credit: Reuters

Photo (bottom): Anna Nicole Smith in 2004. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press