Kurt Cobain's final days to be turned into an opera by London's Royal Opera House

Kurt Cobain
(Image credit: Michel Linssen/Redferns)

The final days of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain are to be dramatically transformed into an opera entitled Last Days by the Royal Opera House in London.

The show will be adapted from a 2005 film of the same name by director Gus Van Sant, which details the final days of the life of a young musician named Blake, loosely based on Cobain.

Composed by Oliver Leith, the Royal Opera House's 31-year-old composer-in-residence and a self-described “massive” Nirvana fan, Last Days is part of the Royal Opera House's 2022-2023 season, and “plunges into the torment that created a modern myth,” the ROH says.

Its plot sees Blake return home from a spell in rehab, only to be “haunted by objects, visitors and memories distracting him from his true purpose – self-destruction”. 

Leith says that Nirvana's music “soundtracked” his teen years, adding that the music is “some of the first [he] learned to play on the guitar”.

“I owe a lot of how I now make music to the sound of grunge from that time – I had never really thought about where my experimental mess and repetitions had come from,” he says.

On the decision to dramatize Kurt Cobain's final days for the opera, Leith says the Nirvana frontman's is “an archetypal story – operas deal well in those”.

Directed by Matt Copson and Anna Morrissey, Last Days is due to be staged this coming October at the Royal Opera House's Linbury Theatre.

Despite a tenure of only seven years from 1987 until 1994, Nirvana remain one of the most iconic rock bands in history. Their second studio album and major-label debut, Nevermind, is one of the best-selling albums of all time, with an estimated 30 million copies sold.

In Kurt Cobain's final interview with Guitar World in the February 1992 issue, he described the band's sound as “like the Bay City Rollers after an assault by Black Sabbath”.

“We’re just musically and rhythmically retarded,” he asserted. “We play so hard that we can’t tune our guitars fast enough. People can relate to that.”

For more information on the operatic production of Last Days, head to the Royal Opera House.

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Sam Roche

Sam was Staff Writer at GuitarWorld.com from 2019 to 2023, and also created content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar.