My mum used to be my dad, snip, snip" and "I used to be a preoperative transsexual" are not lines usually found in grand opera. But they are sung in a delicate staccato fugue, by soaring sopranos and firm baritones, in the most talked-about new show in London. High culture meets the dumbed-down dregs of television in Jerry Springer--The Opera, which opens this week at London's Royal National Theater.
It may seem perverse to take a trashy TV talk show and turn it into opera. Yet composer Richard Thomas and lyricist Stewart Lee see the transition as natural. "The format of the Jerry Springer Show is very operatic," says Thomas. "You have lots of people screaming at each other, and you can't understand what they're saying. And just like in opera, the stories are very extreme." In the opera, Springer (Michael Brandon) must deal with diaper fetishists, tap-dancing Ku Klux Klan members and finally even the devil himself. Reviewers have gushed, the show's run has been extended into August, and producers are already sniffing around, looking to move it to the West End--maybe even to Broadway. The real Springer's reaction? "I only wish I'd thought of it first." --By James Inverne