Pocket-sized opera

Peter Reynolds, who died earlier this month, is credited with having written the World’s Shortest Opera:

This particular performance, as it happens, runs slightly long:

At three minutes and 34 seconds, it is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s shortest opera. “The librettist, Simon Rees, came up with the idea of an opera whose duration should match the boiling of an egg,” says Reynolds. “So we created a domestic scenario of a couple having an argument over breakfast. It starts with the sand-timer being turned, and ends with the egg coming out of the saucepan.”

You may wonder how a three-minute item qualifies as an opera rather than, say, a song, but Reynolds had all the requirements covered. “The intention was to create a piece which bore the same relationship to opera as a miniature does to a full-length portrait,” he says. “It included all the component parts of an opera — overture, introductory chorus, arias and recitative — though in highly condensed form.” It had its premiere in Cardiff city centre on March 27 1993, conducted by Carlo Rizzi, in the presence of two invigilators from the Guinness Book of Records and a bewildered crowd of shoppers.

The second shortest opera, should you care, is The Deliverance of Theseus, Op. 99, by Darius Milhaud (1928), which plodded along for seven and a half minutes, just slightly longer than “MacArthur Park.”

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)


  1. Dr. Weevil »

    28 October 2016 · 12:38 pm

    I have heard the Milhaud. For as little as $7.29 + shipping, your readers can hear it, too, with two other operas and six symphonies, all on one disc. I believe “Opéras-Minutes” in the title means ‘Minute Operas’ with ‘Minute’ pronounced ‘my-newt’ = tiny, not ‘minn-uht’ = lasting only 60 seconds. I assume even Frenchless readers can figure out “Petites Symphonies”. How do they sound? In a single meta-descriptive word: succinct.

  2. CGHill »

    28 October 2016 · 1:19 pm

    That might well be worth getting. (I have a collection of very short symphonies by William Boyce, but describing them as “symphonies” is stretching things a bit.)

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