The Opera, The Media and Our Kids

By admin • In James Barbour NewsNo Comments

Holy crap!  Opera is a different world!

This is such a cool project that I’m working on and I want to share some of the aspects of this process as we move along in rehearsals.  This is a HUGE undertaking that BAM and NYC Opera have placed on their shoulders.  And I’m excited to say that I’m glad they did.  Whenever I tell someone I’m doing “ANNA NICOLE THE OPERA’ usually there’s a pause, a look and then a reaction raging from “How cool is that!”  to “What the hell are they thinking?


What is fascinating is that this is truly a commentary on the state of our media today.  As the librettist, Richard Thomas, for Anna Nicole The Opera said on our first day, Anna really didn’t have any talent at all and became famous for it.

That is a “reality” in our media driven world.  We have superstars who are superstars simply because they are superstars.  They are, after all, products of our creation.  We read the tabloids (horrible as they are), we watch the reality shows, as base and substance free as they are, we create the demand and therefore we create the stars.

Anna Nicole The Opera is a tragic story (granted there is humor in it) but her life was indeed a tragedy.  I would not wish her life on anyone and as I look at the fate of many people in the entertainment world including their children (whether they chose this life or not and their kids have not) they are under a constant microscope by the media.

What happened to just wanting to create art? Why must there be this “other side” to it?  There is a fascination with those who create it for whatever reason.  I mean when was the last time paparazzi stalked an accountant and waited for him to step out of a coffee shop in the hope of catching a photo them with their kids?

Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner testified in Sacramento recently in an attempt to stop paparazzi from photographing their (and ANY children) without parental consent.  This to me is a VERY important subject.  We have chosen a life in the entertainment world our children have not.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this but there are actually high prices paid to photographers for pictures of celebrity children.  These photos are sold to the tabloids, which WE buy and because WE buy them that creates a demand and that demand then creates the “need” to go out and take more photos.  (Here’s my little secret…I don’t buy them.  In fact I actually turn them around in grocery stores so that the front covers are hidden and then put something over it to cover the back page)

Here is a link to ABC coverage of Halle and Jennfiers testimony.  If you are a parent…put yourself in their shoes.  Aren’t we careful of what we allow our kids to watch on TV, the Internet?  Careful of what words they hear…we protect them.  I think this protection should extend to this as well.


Heck…I’m not a big celebrity and in many, many ways I’m grateful for that.  I have friends who cannot even go to the grocery store or the mall.  They can’t go to the movies or a dinner out with their wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend.  Is it the price they pay…I suppose.  But it shouldn’t be the price their kids have to pay…or anyones kids have to pay.

Someone in one of the videos on that ABC link said…something like ‘Well people are interested in them, they want to know about their lives…’

…and there it is.  Because “they” want, “they” are interested, does it makes it right to invade their privacy and harass their children?  The question is…WHY?  Why do people want to know what some celebrity had for lunch or what color underwear is?  I have no idea.

In the end…it is what it is and the fascination exists.  But I believe it is this fascination that helped to create the Anna Nicole that we saw toward the end of her life.  The pressures are great.  Some handle it better than others as is obvious by those who weather the storms and rise to greater heights and by the opposite downfall of so many due to drugs etc.

Anna’s own son, Daniel died at the age of 20 from an overdose of antidepressants (I hate that crap).  And get this; according to Wikipedia: “On September 18th, Getty images sold the last photos taken of Daniel Smith alive at his mother’s bedside” to three different entertainment news outlets “for a total of at least $650,000.”  Why do paparazzi take pictures?  There’s your answer.

In her testimony Halle says there is a love/hate relationship with the paparazzi.  It’s true.  Without press movies, TV shows, theatre, Opera, art in general…no one would know about them and therefore no one would buy a ticket.  Art cannot be done in a vacuum. However there must be a line of mutual respect.  I have many friends who are photographers in the media, some are very good friends that I have known for years and I truly trust them.  We have a very strong bond of mutual respect.  I think it is this line that Halle and Jennifer are speaking of in their quest. It is not the cost of fame that is the issue…it is the loss of humanity.

For each person whether famous or not it is an individual journey on how we face life and what choices we make in the process.  I think you’ll see part of that journey in ANNA NICOLE THE OPERA at BAM.  I hope that it sheds light on our society and gives, as crazy as it sounds, perspective for us to look at our own choices and maybe…just maybe change things.

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