Penning an autobiography and being the subject of numerous books and films is practically in the job description of a US president. But this weekend Bill Clinton joined only a handful of other Oval Office veterans in being memorialized onstage. Cue the lights, Bill Clinton’s life is now an opera!
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Bonnie Montgomery of Arkansas has spent the last four years—enough time to herself have served as president—composing the Americana folk opera, which follows a day in the life of the teenage Clinton. Montgomery’s friend Britt Barber wrote the lyrics for “Billy Blythe,” which the Metropolis Opera Project premiered at New York City’s Medicine Show Theater on Sunday and Monday.
The title references the former president’s birth name: his biological father Bill Blythe died three months before his son was born. Clinton’s mother, the late Virginia Clinton Kelley—known for her flair for makeup and gambling and her marriage to Roger Clinton, Bill’s abusive stepfather—figures as a prominent character in the narrative, set in 1959. Montgomery credits Clinton’s autobiography for inspiring her to create the show. Both she and Zach James, the director of Metropolis, hope the subject matter will help cultivate a younger generation of opera aficionados.
“His life story is full of action and exaggerated Southern characters. It’s an amazing story that a man can come from where he came from and become the president,” Montgomery told Reuters. “His personality is mythical and where he came from (Hot Springs) provides the perfect mythical backdrop.” Montgomery informed Clinton of her project in 2009, and the Metropolis Opera Project invited the former president to attend a show. But as of yet, no sightings of Clinton front row center until the fat lady sings.
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