Heated Twitter feud inspires political opera

Spending cuts and increased public debt in the Eurozone prompted an angry online exchange last summer, now set to music in a lively new opera.

nostra culpa opera rehearsal

An online spat between Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has provided a lively libretto for a new Estonian opera. Composer Eugene Birman sets their argument to music in his new work, Nostra Culpa, which was performed this week by the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra.

After Krugman blogged last summer that he was unimpressed by Estonia's financial recovery, Ilves took to Twitter to brand him 'smug, overbearing and patronising'. The 16-minute work features a solo soprano singing the hotly sarcastic tweets verbatim, taking the Latin phrase 'Nostra culpa' (Our fault) as its title: "We're just dumb and silly East Europeans," tweeted Hendrik. "Unenlightened. Someday we too will understand. Nostra culpa."

The libretto is divided into two movements; the first quotes Krugman's blog to reflect his economic philosophies, and the second is based on Ilves' tweets. Nowhere in the work are either of the two men mentioned, in an attempt to place the political argument within a wider context.

While tackling weighty subjects and heated emotions, the opera itself is amusing. When adapting Ilves' more foul-mouthed tweets which feature asterisks to disguise the original words, librettist Scott Diel instructs the singer to make a high-pitched whistling sound in place of the missing characters.