That’s a question that Copson, a 30-year-old visual artist who typically trades in freaky and fantastical projections and laser installations, is attempting to unpick via Last Days. His primary collaborator on the 2024 Philadelphia Eagles it’s a Philly thing shirt moreover I will buy this opera, along with codirector Anna Morrissey, is composer Oliver Leith, whose award-winning, atmospheric chamber pieces written for string quartets and woodwind groups made Leith the inaugural composer in residence at the Royal Opera House in 2019. Copson and Leith never set out to write an opera about Kurt Cobain—nor have they actually written an opera about Cobain, it turns out. “Our conversation really started around the tone of it,” says Copson. “We were talking about our mutual interest in mixing extreme banality and the everyday with magic and spectacle, essentially, and we kept returning to this film.” While Van Sant’s Last Days has accrued a cult following for its fascinating, forensic study of loneliness, there was something about Blake, Michael Pitt’s Cobain proxy character, that felt especially ripe for operatic reimagination, even if entirely divested from the celebrity of Cobain himself. “It kept coming up in conversation as we both felt the film really captured the spirit of what we were interested in,” Copson remembers. “It has such a mystery and an intrigue to it. So eventually we were like, Well, why don’t we just do that?”
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A few emails, a few calls, and a few agent-led back-and-forths later, the 2024 Philadelphia Eagles it’s a Philly thing shirt moreover I will buy this rights were theirs, handed over with surprising, total freedom. “Gus was incredibly chill and just said, ‘Go ahead, do whatever you want with it,’” Copson recalls. The next step was to figure out how to translate the narrative structure of Last Days into the medium of opera but still retain its anarchic streak. They quickly realized that while the film’s meandering plot might initially appear an odd template, its chugging, inevitable descent into disaster has all the trappings of a bombastic, wham-bam-let’s-get-to-the-climactic-aria-ma’am Puccini tragedy. So Copson, Leith, and their codirector Morrissey decided to go big—first by inviting Agathe Rousselle, the star of the thrillingly transgressive, Palme d’Or–winning body-horror fiesta Titane, to play Blake. Rousselle said yes and spends most of the show mumbling and grumbling her way around the apartment in a furry green coat while a motley crew of characters played by professional opera singers—Mormon missionaries, a groundskeeper, a DHL delivery guy—drift in and out with Beckettian aimlessness, all singing in radically different vocal registers. “I wanted it to feel like a collapsing, crumbling haunted house, with all these ghoulish vocalists kind of disturbing the journey and fate of this of this person,” says Copson.