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Opera Based on Kurt Cobain Premieres at the LA Philharmonic

By Sara Schabas on February 12, 2024

Oliver Leith Last Days
ROH. (Photo: Camilla Greenwell)

Last week, the Los Angeles Philharmonic presented the US premiere of Oliver Leith’s opera “Last Days.” The opera is based on the synonymous film by Gus Van Sant with a libretto by the artist Matt Copson. It features the story of the last days of a protagonist named Blake’s life, loosely based on Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, as he descends towards suicide.

Digging deeper: “Last Days” was conducted by the composer and conductor Thomas Adès and co-directed by Matt Copson and Anna Morrissey. In typical LA fashion, costumes were provided by Balenciaga. The opera also features a pre-recorded track of the art house pop star Caroline Polachek, for whom Copson has directed music videos, singing operatically in a way that Leith refuses to categorize as ironic.

Final word: While “Last Days” provides audiences with a look at the mundanity and beauty of the everyday, the audience at the LA Phil’s premiere was anything but mundane. Ludwig Van sources reportedly spotted the full Boygenius supergroup in attendance, as well as Polachek, Gus Van Sant, the film’s Kim Gordon, Beck, and other glitterati. Turns out the stars of LA go to the opera, too.

Sara Schabas
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