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Royal Opera to stage Anna Nicole story

The former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith will become the latest operatic heroine to meet a tragic end at the Royal Opera House when the musical version of her life story opens there on 17 February next year.

The production has been co-written by Richard Thomas, one of the creators of the controversial Jerry Springer: The Opera, and Mark-Anthony Turnage, one of Britain's leading composers.

The Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek will play Smith, who died in 2007 at the age of 39 after taking an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. The stripper-turned-model became embroiled in a long-running legal battle to claim a share of the estate of her late billionaire husband, the oil tycoon J Howard Marshall, who was 89 when they married.

The project is part of the Royal Opera House's commitment to producing a new opera for its main stage every two years. It described the production as "a major event in the UK arts calendar" but refused to give more details about the plot yesterday.

Critics said the involvement of Thomas meant that it was likely to be an "off the wall" production.