'and the Crowd (wept)': Jade Goody becomes latest celebrity to inspire opera

 

From the day she burst onto television screens as a Big Brother contestant in 2002, Jade Goody’s life resembled one long soap opera.

From her struggles with fame and cheating boyfriends to race rows and eventually her death, most of her adult life was played out in the public spotlight.

So perhaps it is fitting that the dental nurse who became Britain’s biggest reality star is to be the subject of the latest in a recent spate of celebrity-inspired stage operas.

The work, entitled and the Crowd (wept), has been more than three years in the making, and was written by playwright Afsaneh Gray, with the score composed by Erick Flores. It is directed by Pia Furtado, who has worked on pieces performed by Opera North and the Royal Opera, and is being conducted by the editor of Live Music at BBC Radio 3, Adam Gatehouse.

Ms Gray said she was inspired to write the opera by the insatiable press coverage of, and the public reaction, to Goody’s battle with cervical cancer, which she succumbed to in 2009 aged just 27.

“I was a medical secretary just at the time when Jade Goody got ill with cancer, and the two women I was working with were coming in everyday with The Sun and OK! magazine,” Ms Gray recalled. “And they took really opposing ideas of her. One was like: ‘Poor Jade she’s a mother-of-two and she’s dying of cancer.’ And the other was like: ‘She’s a racist, she deserves everything she gets.’ Everyone has an opinion about her.”

Ms Gray said the “heightened drama” of Goody’s story lent itself perfectly to the medium of opera.

Three female singers take turns playing the parts of Goody, as well as one critical and one sympathetic commentator.

A narrator also appears in the background, telling the story of Goody’s journey from notorious Big Brother contestant to national tragedy.

“The fairytale narrative is that there’s this girl who always looks up to the heavens and dreams of being a star. And the final conceit is that she becomes a star, but it’s not what she wanted,” says Gray. “I think it’s quite moving.”

The Goody opera comes just two years after an operatic biography of another flawed tabloid favourite, the Playboy model Anna Nicole-Smith, opened in Covent Garden.

Anna Nicole: The Opera proved a controversial undertaking even before it hit the stage, dogged by threats of legal action and complaints that it was in poor taste.

Ms Gray insists that while she expects comparisons, the two productions are markedly different.

She said: “I enjoyed Anna Nicole, but this is very different. That was very much the story of that woman and this is very much the story of celebrity.”

Gray said she had attempted to get in touch with Goody's widower Jack Tweed and Jade’s family members through Twitter but had failed to receive a reply.

“I really want to invite them,” she added.

And the Crowd (wept) is playing over two nights, on 1 and 2 August, at the ‘Tete a Tete’ opera festival being staged at the Riverside Studios in west London

Lowering the tone: Daring operas

Anna Nicole: Mark-Anthony Turnage’s tale of sex, celebrity and scandal was first performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, to lukewarm reviews. The show transferred to the US earlier this year.

Jerry Springer: The Opera: The Christian Institute tried to prosecute the BBC, claiming blasphemy. The show ran for 609 performances between 2003 and 2005 and won four Laurence Olivier Awards.

Gaddafi: A Living Myth: The English  National Opera’s 2006 attempt to “redefine” opera provoked fears of an in-house attack after the Libyan leader responded: “Terror and war are the ultimate theatre.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor