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Twitter Opera: The Libretto So Far, plus Who Wants to be on Channel 4 News?

By Royal Opera House

4 September 2009 at 2.07pm | Comment on this article

So, the curtain has just fallen on the first full dress-rehearsal, composed to fabulous music by Helen Porter and Marc Teitler, and brought to life by mezzo soprano Hannah Pedley, starring as Helga/Esmerelda/Corbin, and baritone Andrew Slater who is bringing the characters of  William, Hans and Tobermory to life. The behatted narrator and ringmaster is Philip Herbert, the twinkly fingered repetiteur is Lindy Tennent-Brown, and the director is John Lloyd Davies. But aside from the creative team here, none of this could have happened without you - our lovely Twitterati.

We were packed to the rafters with international media this afternoon and some excerpts may be coming to a screen near you very soon. And if any of our Twitterers are in the Royal Opera House tomorrow, then please make yourselves known to the  Channel 4 news crew who will be filming the performance - because (oooh!) you could end up talking about it on the telly.

Ahead of tomorrow's WORLD PREMIERE, the following is a sneaky peak of the libretto as it currently stands - and hold on to your hats as there'll be a short film ready very soon, showing exclusive footage of this week's lightening-speed workshops.  Bravo one and all...



It is a curious story — hear my tale,

Although my name was never Ishmael,

For this great epic will your souls ignite,

Your senses ravish and your hearts deloitte…

A story written not by one, but all,

A composite composition to appal,

Of passion, burning revenge and envy bitter,

Among the gentle denizens of Twitter.

           *                  *                  *                  *

Think, when we speak of horses, that you saw them,

(Although in fact we couldn’t quite afford them),

The Duck of Destiny brings joys, betrayals, sins:

The Twitter Opera approaches — It Begins!

 An endless opera, infinite yet uncompleted,

The strangest tale that ever has been tweeted,

The strangest opera ever heard or sung,

This tragic tale of Twitterdämmerung...

(Impassioned dramatic overture 15”)

Prologue 2

Long ago, in a far-off galaxy,

a race of strange alien beings

filled the long winter evenings

at their computer terminals,


like rabbits,

on social networking websites. 

They laboured to create a new artform,

of drama, music, love, revenge and birdseed,

sung by singers of enormous artistry

and weight,

a million contradictory plots

drawn from the dustbin

of the collective imagination.

Scene #1

Ringmaster (over underscoring)

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…


 A small bird twitters over there,

He sings without a single care,

If only we could be so free,

Without the worries and the …  concerns of a nihilist.

 I would bring you flowers, but they would die.

I would love you, but, why?

 The bird responded,


Flowers they are strange to me,

The fruits of nature that I see,

Are worms and seeds and cats and rats -

“Nuts, I love hazelnuts.”


Bang! The bird dropped from the sky, dead

 Scene #2


Shocked, the Woman With No Name begins to have doubts…


William, I’m not sure where this is going for us…

Darling, I must tell you.

I can’t stand you – no, stronger.

You are a horse.

And now escape is what I long for.

 Why am I standing here,

listening to you sing to a bird?

I have my career as a biochemist to be getting on with…

 Scene #3


Will the newly-named Helga remain faithful to Biochemistry? Or does she prefer William, who prefers the mysterious Hans? Is the death of the bird an omen? Helga is filled with foreboding and gin…


I’m sure it’s not an omen.


But is Hans is the one for you?


The civil partnership is at noon.


You don’t have to say “I do”

 A woman has needs too;

Hans, you, can anyone on the Board really do?


Give me time to think as I watch the menagerie sing…..


…we seem to float blindly like two rafts in the fog,

I’ve been trying to reach you,

trying to reach you,

trying to tell you….

 Scene #4


Are Helga and William really floating like rafts in the fog? Will their love land on the rocks? Is Helga’s tiny hand really frozen? As Act One continues, the temperature drops and they plan to flee…


I’m so cold - let’s leave Boston.


Anywhere! Around the world India, then Egypt!


...France or Spain, anywhere but here....

In the Serengeti, at night with mosquito net.

Our love will last forever;

Lovers of Legend – the natives won’t foorgetttttt”


Forget! forget! the natives won’t forget!

Lovers, mysterious in the mosquito net!!”

 Scene #5


Suddenly the safari-bound lovers are parted by the arrival of the Ginger Cat, who has some news for William and some medical advice…


“I was once yours, and hers,

but taken away –

that is the cause of your dismay;

all isn’t lost

perhaps a pinch of smelling salts will bring her round

to seeing me for who I really am,

her one and only!


Esmeralda! Smell this! Esmeralda!’


You don’t even know my name,


Her name, her name, he doesn’t know her name..

that’s why she’s in the arms of so many

 - isn’t it a… shame


Tobermory the talking cat tells the mysterious Hans how he can be reunited with his lover, William, who has been abducted and is now being held in a tower by a Chorus of Birds.


Tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet

Scene #6


Trapped in the tower, the helpless William is forced to listen as the Birds fill in a backstory of labyrinthine complexity. William resolves to take drastic action…


And he just died!


He is dead? Who is dead?”


Love. Your love has withered and it has died.


I am going, going to …

… search for my true love / Am claim vengeance where I may / The birds they cannot stop me now / And any challengers I will slay.” less than 5 seconds ago… search for my true love

And claim vengeance where I may

The birds they cannot stop me now

And any challengers I will slay!

 Scene #7


William believes he has seen his own lover Hans plotting to kill him

but the flood of visions is so confusing and horrible that he cannot be sure.

Meanwhile the beautiful Helga unburdens her soul

in an aria of metaphorical lyricism and the birds are overcome with remorse for their earlier cruelty…

Scene #8


 When I gave my heart to William

 he said a fishsword could let go the swallows

and I will go to my man

Wherever he goes I will follow


 William needs to start thinking about attempting to escape.

He is no Rapunzel.

And Hans is no rescuer, he just has a cape!


 Es tweet mir Leid...

Es tweet mir Leid...

Es tweet mir Leid...

 Scene #09

 - scene cut -

 Scene #10


 Two or three Acts go by as Helga realises that boys and birds

are getting in the way of her life’s work

and retires to a convent in Bolivia.

After discussing matters with a Stern Nun,

Helga discovers that Corbin the Raven, King of the Birds,

is not to be trusted.

 Helga goes to the Chapel with the Stern Nun and the Mother Superior,

where they find the apparently lifeless body of the Basement Cat.

 A divine presence begins to descend,

heralded by the song of a million penguins.

 [Heavenly redemptive transformation interlude 15”]

 Scene #11

- scene cut -

 Scene #12



Back in Umberworld, the realm of the birds, Corbin the Raven

and Fraberoom the Demon are about to fight

with William singing frantically for them to stop.

 Suddenly Helga and Hans land.


William, we have the means to bring you back to humankind!”


Helga holds out the potion to William (keeping some in reserve, just in case) and begs him to drink it.

William reaches for the phial, but Corbin attempts to intercept


This should be mine - I too am from humankind!


No its mine, to be humankind would be divine!


The vile potion is thrown into the air spilling over Corbin and Fraberoom

All wait expectantly …

 … but nothing happens.


The potion must be imbibed to have effect


William inspects the phial hesitantly.


How will we all return to Earth without my wings --  

A bird I must be…


Helga nods and hands him the phial


A bird in the Hans, as ‘twas foretold.

if there are two birds on the roof

don’t shoot only one !


 The demons Fraberoom and Celine charge!

 They clash in mortal combat.

 Hans swiftly imbibes the potion…

 …and sprouts beautiful rainbow wings.

Our heroes ascend to safety, leaving their foes cursing below.

 Cataclysmic apocalypse music.

The Rhine overflows.

Twitterdämmerung approaches.

The Duck of Destiny announces The End.

Scene #13 Epilogue


 What happens next? Our story’s course is run:

The opera’s over – or has it only just begun?

 Will Hans be shot? Or maybe William hung?

 In future tweets of … Twitterdämmerung!

By Royal Opera House

4 September 2009 at 2.07pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged Twitterdämmerung