Courtney Love Talks Kurt Cobain, Trent Reznor and Rocking the Opera: 'I Wanted to Do Something Different'

Atisha Paulson
Courtney Love and Todd Almond

"I'm wearing my jammies 'cause mommy's got a cold," quips Courtney Love, holed up in New York's Gramercy Park Hotel in Anna Sui silk pajamas and a sweater, sipping from an array of green juices that her latest collaborator, playwright-composer Todd Almond, has just brought her. Almond, 38, also brings her ­creative nourishment with the opera Kansas City Choir Boy, running Jan. 8-17 at New York's Prototype: Opera/Theater/Now festival. Co-starring with Almond, the rock goddess transforms into a Greek goddess, Athena, in the piece, rising up from small-town environs to grab her destiny. At an intimate preview performance in December, attendee Michael Stipe was particularly touched, letting out an audible "F---!" as he wiped away a tear. (Love also has an upcoming role in the Fox series Empire.) At the Gramercy, as Love and Almond discuss the play, there's a knock on the door. "My injectables!" cries Love, 50, explaining that her doctor sent over two syringes full of CoQ10 and vitamin B12 to fight back her cold. "Now you get to say you saw Courtney Love with needles," she cracks.

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Courtney, what appealed to you about doing an opera piece?

Love: I was on tour in Australia, and it was namby-pamby, like House of Blues 2,500-seaters. That's where we're at -- literally, the oldies circuit. I'm in the middle of [Hole's] "Doll Parts" thinking, "Are we done yet?" I wanted to do something different and this is great. I didn't write any of it, which is new for me -- to let go.

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How would you describe the chemistry between you and Todd?

Love: Physically and psychically, we mesh -- we move and feel like a couple. I don't see a lot of men that are taller than me, or more light-skinned than me. I'm just as white as you can get, but he's actually lighter; he's see-through. I call him my translucence. I was listening to Todd play the other day, and I remembered when I used to date Trent Reznor, who is very talented and has his own thing, but Todd's is better. Me and Trent would f--- around at the old Sunset Marquis [in Hollywood]. There was a grand piano -- he would play and I would chanteuse it out. How fabulous that I got someone better than Trent!

Almond: With Courtney, it's as if I have this magnet on the inside of my spine that I didn't know that I had.

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Todd, how was Courtney a good fit for this role?

Almond: The character has this iconic quality about her; she wears her destiny on the outside. There are these two people who are deeply in love. But one belongs in Kansas City, and one does not. She belongs to some greater destiny. Courtney is all of those things.

Love: I can relate, to an extent. A boy and a girl that are the coolest in town, like Minneapolis, where I had a boyfriend who looked like a Botticelli painting. He was in a little band, and I made him come to L.A. with me, and he crashed and burned. He couldn't deal. It's infamous in Minneapolis local lore that I broke up this band -- I think they were called The Bastards. I took their drummer -- he was dumb, but he was gorgeous. We couch-toured. I was working at the Seventh Veil [strip club], bringing home the bacon. And he just couldn't deal with what I wanted. If I didn't make it, I'd f---ing jump off a roof. Seriously. I didn't have a plan B. So, I can definitely relate to her ambition. I understand this character's need to get out of Kansas City, but she's in love. This is real vivid, Kurt-and-me kind of love.

Todd wrote the piece, but did you two consult each other during its creation?

Love: The one contribution that I made to this is I sent Todd a clip of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks in 1982 on [Fleetwood Mac's] Mirage Tour. Lindsey and Stevie are singing "The Chain." They're the biggest band in the world, they're coked out of their minds, and they f--ing hate each other. She's at her great height of beauty. He's at his great height of beauty. He's got a voice like a choirboy, like Todd. And I sent that to Todd because it's opera. That is opera. [Hole's] Celebrity Skin is an opera. Every single record I've put out, except for America's Sweetheart, which sucked, has had a thematic situation. So I don't feel like I'm doing something that I shouldn't be doing.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 17 issue of Billboard.