The Last Days of Kurt Cobain will be dramatized by the Royal Opera House | kurt cobain
The final days of Kurt Cobain, the rock star whose angst and anti-establishment stance spoke to millions of Gen X teenagers, are to be dramatized by the Royal Opera House (ROH).
Cobain, who committed suicide at his Seattle home in April 1994 at the age of 27, is the subject of Last Days, an opera based on Gus Van Sant’s 2005 film of the same name.
The acclaimed film, centering on a young musician named Blake, was loosely based on Cobain’s final days and hours. It depicts the fictional star’s descent into pain, depression, isolation and drug abuse before committing suicide.
Devoted Cobain fans were shocked by his death, mystifying past thought leaders who had failed to register his appeal and influence.
More than 30 million copies of Nevermind, the 1991 album written by Cobain for Nirvana, in which he was guitarist, singer and songwriter, have been sold worldwide.
Conspiracy theories about Cobain’s death were widespread despite previous suicide attempts, a history of drug use and a rambling suicide note. Excerpts were read by his wife, punk singer Courtney Love, at a vigil in Seattle following the discovery of his body, attended by thousands of fans.
The opera was composed by Oliver Leith, the 31-year-old ROH composer-in-residence, to a libretto by Matt Copson. Directed by Copson and Anna Morrissey, it is due to be staged in October at ROH’s Linbury Theater.
The opera “dives into the turmoil that created a modern myth,” ROH said. Blake, its central character, recently returned home after a stint in rehab. “But he is haunted by objects, visitors and memories that distract him from his real goal – self-destruction.”
Leith, a “massive” Nirvana fan, said the opera was a fitting vehicle for the subject matter of Last Days. Cobain was “an archetypal story – operas lend themselves well to it”.
Van Sant had not sensationalised his death, he added. “We know it happens. It is used as a lens through which we see daily sleepwalking life intensify. For example, telling a delivery person to “come back another day” is fraught with tragedy. I think opera also raises everyday issues.
Leith was four years old when Cobain died, “but music marked my adolescence. It’s one of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar.
“I owe a lot of the way I make music now to the grunge sound of that era – I never really thought about where my experimental mess and rehearsals came from.”
He said he hoped the opera would appeal to a wide range of people, not just Nirvana fans. It was about the “inevitable death of a celebrity. It could be any star now.”
Last Days was announced as part of ROH’s 2022-23 season, which features 20 new opera and ballet productions, nine world premieres and three UK premieres.
As well as classic operas by composers such as Puccini, Mozart and Verdi, ROH is hosting the UK premiere of Least Like the Other – a portrait of Rosemary Kennedy, President John F Kennedy’s older sister who was lobotomized at the age of 23 years. .
Another opera, History of the Present, marks the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement by telling the story of ordinary lives still suffering from the collective trauma of The Troubles.