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Life of playboy model Anna Nicole unfolds in tragic opera premiere

Her name is more associated with gossip magazines than high art, but now the life of Playboy centrefold Anna Nicole Smith is to be turned into an opera.

The production -- which has been co-written by one of the creators of Jerry Springer: The Opera -- will be staged at one of Britain's most venerable institutions, the Royal Opera House.

The actress died in 2007 at the age of 39 after an apparent accidental overdose of prescription drugs.

Smith, a stripper who went on to find fame as a model and star in movies, was embroiled in a long-running legal battle to claim a share of the estate of her late husband. Oil tycoon J Howard Marshall was 63 years her senior and was 89 when they married.

The opera, called Anna Nicole, will receive its world premiere on February 17 next year.

It has been co-written by one of Britain's leading composers Mark-Anthony Turnage, together with Richard Thomas, who was behind the West End hit Jerry Springer, which led to thousands of complaints in 2005 when BBC2 agreed to screen a performance, with threats made against some.

The Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek will play Smith.

The Royal Opera House said today that the premiere would be "a major event in the UK arts calendar".

Also to be staged at the venue later this year will be the UK premiere of Philip Glass's In The Penal Colony, based on a short story by Franz Kafka about an execution machine. It will be seen in September.