As a student of music at the University of North Texas, the young Emily Newton from the small Texan town of Lake Jackson put portraits of beautiful men and women, and gorgeous landscapes together into a collage. Among them was one Anna Nicole Smith, whose beauty greatly impressed Miss Newton. Years later, after she had become a trained soprano, she heard about the world premiere of the Mark Anthony Turnage Opera, Anna Nicole, in London and she mused, “I want to sing this part too”. So she did. And how! 2 years later in Dortmund.
The European Continental Premiere of the Anna Nicole Opera on the 27th of April, 2013 in the Dortmunder Opera house led to a triumph for all, and especially for the phenomenal Emily Newton in the title role.
The Dortmunder Opera chose this person out of many competing applicants and stumbled upon a real find. How she both sang AND embodied the life and death of the US Playmate, Anna Nicole Smith, knocked both the public and the press off their feet. A star was born.
There are only two more chances to experience this opera in Dortmund: On May 17th, and on May 29th, 2013.
Today, I had an interview with Emily Newton as a part of my series about opera singers.
About Anna Nicole
Technically she has little in common with Anna Nicole Smith, as she said in the interview, “Anna Nicole was a blonde woman. So am I. Anna Nicole was a star without talent, a high school drop-out with no training. But, like me, she came from a little Texan city and, like myself, wanted to go to the big city. But that’s the only thing that I have in common with her and the role.”In contrast to Anna Nicole, she had a great family and environment. Also in contrast to Anna Nicole, Emily Newton had sponsored training and a degree as “Master of Music” from the University of North Carolina. Emily Newton took most of the publicized life of the playmate with a grain of salt. The scandals and affaires, the wedding with the aging millionaire, the early death of Anna Nicole; all of that, like millions of others, she also read in the yellow press. And still, she played the role grandly and convincingly; flew onto the stage like [Anna Nicole] her, and in many scenes, lead one to believe they were watching the real Anna Nicole. “In my private life, however, I don’t carry myself that way!” Emily Newton added.
When she received the score shortly before Christmas 2012, she was staying at her boyfriend’s parents’ house in the USA for a visit. “When I came to the point where Anna Nicole sang curse words, I always improvised with ‘la-la-la’, so that I wouldn’t shock them [the parents]. Then, later I added the curse words.” Emily Newton said with a laugh. Because these curse words had explanations in the program, the Dortmunder audience could read along and be amused. Emily Newton, “But, that’s how Anna Nicole was. That kind of language was a part of her.”
“The Opera Anna Nicole is to me a special, new and very interesting music genre. I’ve generally sung classic opera roles. This role suits my voice well, but it still requires a lot of hard work. 2 and 1/2 uninterrupted hours on stage is very difficult physically and vocally,” said Emily Newton. Indeed, there are no breaks for the leading lady in the opera. She’s always in sight, even when she isn’t singing. And – above all – she is constantly moving. The role requires much endurance. And because there are no off-stage breaks for her, little tricks are used in Dortmund, which the audience doesn’t notice. Thus, Miss Newton’s “son” (on stage) would be given a glass of water whenever he brought medicine to his “mother”. And in one scene, Anna Nicole was given a pizza on stage. “That way, I could get a little drink and a bite to eat,” Emily Newton explained.
For someone in such a demanding role, Emily Newton is well prepared. The athletic American is in good physical shape. During her free time, she enjoys sports, especially water sports and loves diving, especially encountering sharks. “I have a thing for sharks, almost like an obsession,” she describes her love for these huge and beautiful sea creatures, who’re far too often hunted by humans without reason. Ok, anyone who dives with sharks definitely has no fear of hard work career-wise – even if it’s singing the part of Anna Nicole.
New York – Dortmund – Europe
Emily Newton started her career as soprano in the USA. She took part in a master class with the great American mezzo-soprano, Marilyn Horne. She has sung many leading roles in her fach, such as Violetta, Lady Macbeth, Donna Anna, Anna Bolena, Elisabeth in Don Carlo, Marschallin in Rosenkavalier, and also Ortlinde in Wagner’s Valkyrie which she sang at the New York MET. Because of her career travels, her time was so limited that she spent barely 6 months in her New York apartment in the course of two years. When she got the Dortmund project, where she’d sing as Anna Nicole, she got a short-term apartment there. In the meantime, Emily Newton cancelled the apartment contract in New York and put the furniture in a small storage room she rented. Because one thing was clear to her: She was staying in Germany. She wishes to continue her career as an opera singer here and in Europe.
Naturally, there are plans that she doesn’t wish to reveal yet. After her triumphant debut in Europe, she’s caught the attention of many. “With careful planning and the right vocal balance, I would later like to dramatically develop my voice with Wagner, Verdi and Strauss,” she says, which is also close to how one hears Emily Newton on stage as Anna Nicole. Her voice is strong, voluminous, and wondrous right up to the highest tones. Perfect for Verdi, Strauss, and especially Wagner.
“I really like Dortmund, it’s people and especially my work in the opera. I have found friends in my colleagues there, as well as in the press team. Somehow, the atmosphere is cozy, and I really like it.” For me, it’s clear: “I’m staying in Germany. And I’ll continue to visit the Dortmund Opera as a member of the audience as often as I just can.” And she said that in excellent German, after a 14-week language course. “When my mother and her boyfriend from Texas visited and we went on a sight-seeing tour of Dortmund, my mother was speechless and thrilled that I was the interpreter. I almost believe that she found that more impressive than my vocal work.”
In August, Emily Newton will fly to Vermont, USA for a few days in order to take part in a Verdi-Opera project that’s in the planning. Afterwards, she’ll visit her family in Texas, whom she won’t see again for quite a while and then fly back to her new home: Germany. “My mother completely understands me, and stands by my side,” says Emily, a young lady from Texas, whose family means so much to her.
The soprano, Emily Newton, stands for a new generation of singers, of best training, both feet firmly on the ground, and a definite goal in mind, armed with a great singing voice and huge talent for the stage.
Visitors to the Dortmund Opera must see the last Anna Nicole performance, lest they miss a grand presentation and a rising star of the international opera scene.
Emily Newton – destined for a great career.
Info: Homepage Emily Newton
Info: Theater Dortmund ANNA NICOLE
*English translation done by Crystal Marie Ullmann, thank you so much for your time, Crystal.