Mozart and Wagner are turning in their graves. The Royal Opera House, in an attempt to bring opera to the masses, is compiling a new full-length libretto from public tweets. The final production will be set to familiar opera scores as well as new music composed by Helen Porter.
Called the Twitter Opera, the project is the brainchild of ROH and Time Out magazine. They have invited the Twitterati to submit lines for the opera (140 characters or less) to create what Alison Duthie, Head of ROH2, describes as “the people’s opera”. A member of the ROH is monitoring the @youropera twitter feed and arranging the tweets into a lyrical narrative fit for the stage. Extracts will be performed as part of the Deloitte Ignite festival from September 4th to 6th.
Enabling such freedom of creative expression with little direction is like setting off a controlled explosion in a bowl of jellybeans. To get the creative juices flowing, the ROH offered these opening words: “One morning, very early, a man and a woman were standing, arm-in-arm, in London’s Covent Garden. The man turned to the woman and he sang…" After less than two weeks Act One, Scene Two was complete, and the project seems to have descended into joyful madness. An excited tweet from ROH says, “So people, this is chaos!”
But as with past experiments with crowdsourced art, the results of this project are mixed: at times the libretto seems beautiful, but mainly it is a colourful mess. The story includes talking cats and dogs, and magic potions to save the day. The story's hero, Will, has been imprisoned in a tower by birds. Typical opera plots tend to beg disbelief, but this one is even more fantastical.
The Twitter Opera may not become a revered work of art, but it is an interesting social experiment. After 275 years, the ROH is working hard to shed its fusty image, and this project is an innovative way to offer the public access to a traditionally elitist domain.
But could it also damage the ROH’s reputation? “They should be careful that it doesn’t overtake the other stuff they do," warns Jeremy Pound, deputy editor of BBC Music Magazine. But Sara Parsons of ROH2 argues that it’s all about "having a balance”. Lets hope they strike it right.
Picture credit: malix (via Flickr)