Overtures, arias and... tweets: The world's first Twitter opera

Rachel Shields
Sunday 09 August 2009 00:00

The libretto has been taken from the sublime to a ridiculous conclusion. Instead of a "little book" - its literal meaning – the latest, and most avant-garde, of operas will feature little "tweets". In a blatant attempt to shake off its fusty image, the Royal Opera House has teamed up with the micro-blogging site to produce The Twitter Opera with a libretto composed entirely of public tweets.

The ROH will join the 140-character tweets into a libretto, set them to familiar opera tunes and original music by Helen Porter and stage the result at its Covent Garden home next month.

While some have welcomed the initiative as further evidence that UK opera is no longer a middle-class preserve, others have dismissed it as a stunt that could threaten the world-famous opera house's reputation.

"It's the people's opera. The perfect way for everyone to become involved with the inventiveness of opera as the ultimate form of storytelling," said Alison Duthie of the Royal Opera House.

But Jeremy Pound, deputy editor of BBC Music Magazine, disagrees: "It was an accident waiting to happen. Whenever there is a new fad, you know that someone in the art world is going to grab hold of it by the horns.

"As long as it's just a one-off, it isn't too bad. They should be careful that it doesn't overtake the serious stuff that they do," he said.

Jonathan Lennie, classical music critic for Time Out magazine, said: "Opera belongs to everyone. This is good because it is experimental. It demystifies the process of creating opera."

While public offerings have trickled rather than flooded into @youropera since its launch last week, suggestions range from ditties such as: "They sing: 'her name, her name, he doesn't know her name. That's why she's in the arms of many – isn't it a shame" to the bizarre: "Tobemory the talking cat tells Hans how he can find his love William, who is being held in a tower by the birds."

Excerpts from the final libretto will performed from 4-6 September.

The initiative is the latest in the ROH's attempts to broaden its appeal. It is to reprise its collaboration with The Sun newspaper, which gave its readers exclusive access to the opening night of Don Giovanni last year, by offering tickets to Carmen and the ballet Mayerling in October.

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