Spin+judges didn’t get to fully talk through the mini-opera challenge before it was posted. I don’t blame anyone. We’re all busy people. But I’m concerned that the challenge post as it stands may mislead some entrants. I speak for nobody but myself, and maybe it’s not something a judge should do in this situation, but I’d rather do something now to help entrants get moving on a good track than stay silent and risk that we all end up with something less than the best possible crop of mini-operas we can get for this round. So I’d like to share some thoughts on what I believe a mini-opera is and how those thoughts will come into play at least in my own judging. I’ll give some additional examples, too. Again, I speak only for myself, and all entrants can take or leave everything I say as you wish.
An opera is a dramatic work. That doesn’t means it’s “interesting or emotional” as opposed to “boring.” That means it tells a story through characters communicating and taking action. I’m looking for that kind of story. “Written in the Wind” may be from a musical and have two characters interacting with each other, but “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and half the radio-hit duets you can think of have two characters interacting with each other. “Come Talk To Me” may have been “dramatized” in the “Secret World” concert film with a telephone prop, but it’s a solo song from a solo album and the other “character” is really just singing background vocals. It’s theatrical, it’s “dramatic,” but it’s not a dramatic work. None of these songs tell a story. I think a mini-opera, like a full opera, should tell a story, so that someone who heard your entry could tell the story to someone who didn’t hear it, just as if it were a novel or a movie or a TV episode, etc.
I will probably vote to disqualify any entry that doesn’t tell a clear story, and I’d hope that all judges would feel the same for this challenge.
An opera tells a whole story. Like I said in a comment on Dr. Lindyke’s blog, Mini-Me wasn’t just a lung or liver following Dr. Evil around, just a part of a person. A mini-opera, to me at least, is not an excerpt from an opera. It’s a small opera. It should tell a whole story. A whole story can be told in a few seconds. A mini-opera can certainly be pulled off at a length appropriate to the amount of time given for a SpinTunes round. Give us an excerpt that doesn’t stand on its own and the challenge maybe may just as well have been to write a number from a musical. That’s not the challenge. The challenge is a mini-opera.
I will probably vote to disqualify any entry that doesn’t tell a complete story, and I’d hope that all judges would feel the same for this challenge.
An opera is made up of multiple songs or song-like pieces. Get mini enough, down to a few seconds, and this would be impossible to do effectively. At a few minutes, though, it’s totally doable, and I think it would be really nice to have a mini-opera keep this characteristic of a full opera. At some level, it’s possible that a single song’s separate sections (verse, chorus, bridge, etc.) might accomplish this, but possibly not.
I don’t know that I’d vote to disqualify any entry that had only one “movement,” but I might, depending on what it does (and doesn’t) accomplish with that one movement. All other things being equal, I’d definitely score a multiple-movement entry higher than a one-movement entry.
In light of all this, here are some examples that I think would best serve entrants to consider:
“Paradise By the Dashboard Light” by Meat Loaf — It has multiple characters (in multiple time periods, even), they’re singing, getting a complete story across, in multiple movements. And it was written to be listened to as a recording. Except for the spoken-word baseball broadcast, there’s probably not a better example for you to consider.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” — Also a good example, for nearly all the same reasons as the Meat Loaf song, especially if you consider the song’s Wikipedia outline. (It’s almost a one-person opera, which is a possibility I’d personally like to have left open, since there are lots of one-person dramatic works, and I don’t see why it couldn’t have been possible here, but I can live with a two-character minimum.)
“Marvin at the Psychiatrist (A 3-Part Mini-Opera)” from the musical “March of the Falsettos,” and “Wire & Glass – Six Songs from a Mini-Opera” by The Who, from the album “Endless Wire” and the musical “The Boy Who Heard Music” — In both cases, it’s true they’re from larger works, but they were also both intended to stand somewhat on their own, and both self-describe as mini-operas.