Anna Nicole Smith

Denise Truscello/

Here's hoping Bobby Trendy is ready for his closeup. Or his aria.

Britain's Royal Opera House today dropped a (blonde) bombshell on the suddenly less staid world of theatre by announcing plans to develop an opera based on the life of Anna Nicole Smith.

"It's not going to be a horrible, sleazy evening," Elaine Padmore, director of opera at London's Covent Garden, where the show will be staged, told the Guardian. "It is not going to be tawdry; it is going to be witty, clever, thoughtful and sad."

Not to mention in no way short on drama. But one thing it won't be, Padmore promises, is exploitative.

"Just because a life has been in the tabloids does not mean it must be treated in a tawdry way on stage," she said in defense of what appears, at least at first glance, to be a headline-grabbing commission.

Padmore went on to elevate the nature of the in-the-works piece, calling it "a parable about celebrity and what it does to people…It will be a slice of our times—of America in the pre-Obama days."

While it may sound like a tall order, Padmore has enlisted some of Britain's top talents to make the tabloid tale palatable to those used to a slightly higher-brow level of culture.

Celebrated composer Mark-Anthony Turnage has been tasked with providing the show's music while librettist Richard Thomas, who proved his mettle on such matters by cocreating the equally controversial Jerry Springer: The Opera, will do the rest.

And there's a lot of rest to cover: Smith's highlights include a stint at stripping that led to her marriage to an octogenarian oil tycoon 63 years her senior, becoming a Playboy Playmate, starring in her own much-mocked reality show, engaging in a Supreme Court battle for her share of a $500 million fortune, publicly fighting a losing paternity battle, losing her son just days after the birth of her daughter and, ultimately, passing away from an accidental drug overdose in 2007 at the age of 39.

As for which events will make the cut, Padmore is keeping mum.

"In broad outline, it will tell the story of her life, the people who influenced her, her progress.

"Clearly the story is about a woman who met an ancient gentleman in a wheelchair, but it's not going to be a straight narrative; choices have been made about significant moments, selecting which incidents in her life are to be built up."

The opera is slated to run during the 2011 season.

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