The Twitter Trilogy

 – very short operas –

music and libretto by João MacDowell 

3 operas: under 2 minutes
1 – LIFE: 20 sec.
2 – DEATH: 40 sec
3 – HOPE: 30sec
Language: English
Cast (4) Soprano, Mezzo, Tenor, Baritone.
Orchestration: 2fl, 2ob, 2cl, 2bs, 2 hr, 2 tp, 2tb, timp, strings.

Photo by Athena AzevedoJoao MacDowell – Rehearsal Symphony No1 – Photo by Athena Azevedo

Composers’ Notes:


I had a conversation with a marketing specialist. She told me about contemporary attention span and the ideal efficiency of our times: to convey a message in 20 seconds.

That left me curious and I did some research on extremely short stories. The most famous example is attributed to Hemingway:

“For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”

As touching as it is concise.

There is a whole genre that grew out of this premise. The second opera of the series pays a tribute to this “6-word novel” scene.

I  managed to keep all these little operas under a minute each. The first can be performed in 20 seconds strictly, the second is divided into two “20-second acts,” allowing for the slow tempo, the third is likely to last about 30 seconds.

Each orchestral score is within a two-page limit. The text is always under 40 words total.
Brecht and Weil also wrote the “Three Penny Opera” but that’s something entirely different.

The project aims at an audio and video installation featuring three simultaneous projections by Athena Azevedo and pre-recorded surround sound. The installation plays with the “in between” space that characterizes part of what we have come to expect from the operatic genre and it puts in evidence the challenge of dealing with meaningful themes in a context of short attention span.



1. Life

– 20 sec.

I have been trampled

I’ve been crumbled

I’ve been scorned

I’ve had to fight.

I’ve been left

I have regrets

And I often need to cry.

Life is a mess

And then you die.

2. Death

– 40 sec. (2 acts)

I found my mother’s suicide note.

No flowers, no funeral, no nothing.

3. Hope

– 30 sec.

My father was buried on the morning of a hot sunny day.

That night, when the rain came, my daughter was born.

Dramatis Personae:

1. Life:


Angela – Soprano

Kate – Mezzo-Soprano

Tim – Tenor

Paul – Baritone
Crowd – Chorus

2. Death:


Anne – Soprano

Mary – Mezzo-Soprano

Mourners – Chorus

3. Hope:


Johanna – Soprano

Costumers – Chorus – SATB


2 flutes
2 oboes
2 clarinets in Bb
2 bassoons
2 horns
2 trumpets in C
2 trombones
violins I,II

More info:

A Trilogy – very short operas for the Twitter Age