Opera in a Minute
Opera is storytelling in an epic, lavish form. But what the hell is going on?
Opera Australia asked us to write some punchy, entertaining scripts for their “Opera in a Minute” series. The challenge: distil complex plots into digestable outlines, while adding enough humour and zing to maintain a jaded would-be-opera-goer’s attention.
Ketchup descended deep into the world of arias, librettos, and viking horns. We emerged, bloodied and bruised, clutching scripts that would detail the world’s greatest stories, but condensed into bite-sized portions.
You'll find our original scripts below, along with videos of the final results produced by the Opera Australia video team.
Say hello to Radamès. He’s a young warrior … and one corner of an ancient Egyptian Love Triangle. He plans to score victory against Ethiopia, and then to score Aida, a beautiful slave girl. Problem is that Aida’s boss, Princess Amneris, thinks Radamès is a bit of alright as well.
Plot twist: Aida is secretly also a princess, from Ethiopia of all places. Should she be loyal to her country, or her boyfriend?
Radamès leads Egypt to victory but unwittingly manages to enslave Aida’s dad, aka the King of Ethiopia, as well. The King of Egypt is like, “Well done! Marry my daughter”.
Radamès has other ideas. He secretly meets up with Aida, his true love. But then he puts his foot in it by inadvertently revealing some pretty serious military intel. Accused of betraying his country, Radamès is in hot water.
Will Aida’s love for her man overcome her love for country? And how will the jilted Amneris exact her revenge?
Meet the Bohemians. Rodolfo’s a poet, and his roomie is a painter called Marcello. It’s Christmas Eve, they’re cold, and they don’t have a piece of avocado toast to their name. Things start to look up when their musician pal appears, flush with cash and in the mood for a party.
Rodolfo says “I’m right behind you guys” but soon bumps into Mimi, the attractive seamstress who’s lost in the dark. He lights her fire, and two arias later they’re in love.
At the cafe Marcello bumps into his ex, Musetta, who decides she wants him back and hatches a plan to get rid her current paramour. After a risqué song, Marcello is putty in Musetta’s hands, and her now ex-boyfriend is left holding the bill.
Time passes, and the two sets of lovers are not without their problems. Rodolfo is the jealous type, while Marcello and Musetta aren’t exactly on Love Island. As the financial reality bites, will poetry, art and music bind the couples together? Or will the Bohemian lifestyle prove their undoing?
Meet Don José, a small town kid in the army, far from home. His fellow soldiers are entranced by the fiery femme fatale Carmen, but not our Don.
Enter Micaela, who delivers a letter from Don’s mum urging him to return home and settle down. With Micaela.
Now, Carmen wants what she can’t have – in this case, Don José. She is arrested for starting a fight, and he’s assigned to guard her. She seduces him with her sexy song, and he frees her – landing him in gaol.
By now he’s head-over-heels for Carmen, and agrees to abandon his good-boy ways and live a life of crime. But with Don José under her thumb, Carmen loses interest and decides she’s into bullfighters. Namely, the dashing Escamillo.
Where will Carmen’s fickle attention leave this heated love triangle? With passion and jealousy reaching fever pitch, you can be sure it’s not happily ever after …
This is Pinkerton, an American naval lieutenant who’s visiting Japan. This is the breathtaking geisha Butterfly, and her servant Suzuki.
Butterfly is enchanted by the prospect of marriage, and despite serious misgivings by the people around them, Pinkerton and Butterfly wed. Things get … steamy.
Evidently Pinkerton doesn’t think that much of his marriage, and disappears. So he has no way of knowing that their night of passion has produced a son. Good one, dad.
Butterfly clings to the idea that Pinkerton will return and refuses to remarry, not even swiping right on the wealthy Prince Yamadori.
After three years of patiently waiting, Butterfly finally gets word that her hubby is on his way. Delirious with joy, she goes into the ultimate cleaning frenzy.
But when Pinkerton’s ship arrives, it turns out that he has company. Who has he brought with him? Will our loyal Butterfly get the future she’s dreamt of for so long?
Say bonjour to Violetta, a glamorous Parisian courtesan who has recently recovered from tuberculosis. She’s throwing one of her epic parties when up rocks shy provincial boy, Alfredo, who plucks up his courage and confesses his love.
Violetta loves the society lifestyle … but Alfredo is kinda cute. This could be her one chance at settling down.
She goes for it. Hanging up her party frock, they move to the country.
Their bucolic bliss is soon upturned by Alfredo’s dad, Germont, who doesn’t want his son married to a courtesan. He explains what it would do to their family’s honour; reluctantly she agrees, and tearfully resolves to leave Alfredo – without telling him the real reason why.
When Alfredo finds out, he declares his revenge. During an encounter at a party, Alfredo gravely insults Violetta, and she promptly faints. Awkward doesn’t begin to describe it.
If that wasn’t enough: Violetta’s illness has returned, and it’s worse than ever. Will the lovers find a way to be united before her light fades? Or was Violetta’s noble sacrifice all in vain?
Our tale begins in occupied Rome. Angelotti has just busted out of prison – now, he’s busting into church, looking for a place to hide. Fortunately, he encounters the painter Cavaradossi, an old mate and political ally who helps to stash him out of harm’s away.
Enter Floria Tosca. She’s an opera singer and Cavaradossi’s lover. You could also say she’s the extremely jealous type, and flies off the handle when she thinks her boyfriend might be fooling around. Cavaradossi reassures her that he’s actually a good guy, then hastily exits stage left with Angelotti.
Soon, the dastardly chief of police Scarpia rocks up in hot pursuit. He spies an opportunity, and fans the flames of Tosca’s jealousy. He hopes she will lead him to Angelotti – with a plan to keep her for himself.
Scarpia invites Tosca around for dinner, but instead of light music she can hear Cavaradossi’s tortured cries. Mmm … relaxing.
Scarpia tells her that Cavaradossi will die unless she reveals Angelotti’s whereabouts, and give into his lecherous demands. She must make a terrible choice: will she save her honour, or her lover’s life? And what about dessert?
After dedicating her life to art and love, Tosca’s fate is sealed and events plunge inexorably toward their conclusion. Will it be a happy one? Hint: this is an opera.