The return of #operaplot contest on Twitter

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Long-winded opera and terse Twitter make for an odd couple, but online classical-music fans have shown that a harmonious duet is possible, especially when the two are mixed with the right amount of irreverent humor.

One of the more successful applications of Twitter in the realm of opera, the contest known as ‘Operaplot’ has become a must-read for classical devotees, with big prizes awarded. The online competitionrequires individuals to summarize the plot of an opera in the length of a tweet, which is 140 characters or less, including spaces.


Concision is a must in the Operaplot game, but cleverness is usually what wins the day. Among the victorious tweets of the past are:

Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’: Kissed the girls and made them cry. Stabbed one’s dad and watched him die. Offered chances to repent, he opted to be Hades sent. Men!

Wagner’s ‘The Flying Dutchman’: Let me get this straight: unfathomable treasure if I betroth my loopy daughter to a ghost? Deal. She’ll meet you by the fjord.

Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’: Father is less than enthusiastic about son’s love affair with aging, bankrupt, terminally ill prostitute. Can you believe it?

Wagner’s ‘Ring’ cycle: There was a young lady called Fricka Who…who…*snore* ‘Wake up & it’s over.’ It’s good, I just wish it were quicka.

This year’s competition, which kicked off on Monday, is being judged by bass-baritone Eric Owens. Previous judges were tenor Jonas Kaufmann and soprano Danielle de Niese. Operaplot is organized by Marcia Adair, a classical-music blogger in Toronto who is also an occasional contributor to Culture Monster. She said the first competition in 2009 drew about 500 entries, and the second about 1,000. So far, there have been more than 300 entries in the latest round, which is set to end Friday.


The incongruity of shoehorning an unwieldy opera synposis into the length of a tweet is what gives Operaplot its comic spin. The best tweets ‘are simple in that they play with language or have a pop culture reference or are poetic -- not all in one,’ said Adair.

The darker operas seem to lend themselves the best to Twitter. ‘Some of the most consistently hilarious ones have been ‘Bluebeard’ and ‘Salome,’’ said Adair. ‘The ‘Ring’ and its constituent parts are perennial favorites, especially the incest one [‘Die Walküre’].’

Each person can submit 25 tweets for the contest, simply by using the #operaplot tag in his or her personal Twitter timeline. The five winners, who are expected to be announced April 20, can choose from a range of prizes including tickets to opera companies around the world, such as the Metropolian Opera, Los Angeles Opera and English National Opera.

The humor of Operaplot lies in its populist deflation of a rarefied art form. The most successful Tweets combine cultural erudition with lowbrow irreverence, acknowledging the complexities of opera while lampooning their frequently far-fetched narrative conceits. As one tweeter recently summarized Bellini’s opera ‘Norma’: ‘Druid love triangle goes up in flames while secret squeeze runs off with the kids.’

Adair said, ‘Every year, I realize more and more that the only difference between opera characters and Jerry Springer guests is that the music is better at the theater.’


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-- David Ng