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Collaborative Opera Project?

Dan Gilbert

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Hey, I'm new to this site and I joined because there is no other place on the web where I can talk to composers.

I (like all of you) am a young composer. I want to write an opera, but the task is daunting. I wrote a comic 15-minute opera, but I want to write a dramatic full length opera.

But then I came up with the idea to do a collaborative opera. Wouldn't that be a blast? Anyone who wanted could contribute, and then one leader would piece everything together to make the opera.

Maybe an opera written by a large number of people would reflect the genius of many people, rather than just one. I think it's a very original idea, and it's worth a try, isn't it?

To do this, we'd need writers, poets, dramatists, and of course, composers. First we would all contribute to creating a plot, then we would all contribute to writing that into a libretto, and then finally, everyone would contribute pieces of the score (which I assume would start as a piano score and then would later be orchestrated).

Is anyone interested?

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We have a special forum for collaborative works; you can tell that because it's called, "Collaborative Works." It lies here:

Collaborative Works - Young Composers Music Forum

If a mod would please move the thread to there, this thing can get underway. I don't think I'll participate, but I'll surely watch from aclose, it sounds like a smashing idea! :)

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Well then, OK, I guess they should move this thread.

Do people that have said that would like to be a part of this want to commence with this project on this forum? An alternative would be using a google group (which I have already created). That way everything there would be this-related, and it wouldn't get confusing.

So what do you guys say - google group, or just using threads on this forum?

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Alright then, forums it is. We need a lot of people on in this.

I guess the first thing we should discuss is the plot.

I have an idea for the plot. It's kind of a dark idea. It needs elaboration to become a full length opera.

Anyone can contribute ideas.

My idea:

A tall, dark-haired eccentric man lives alone in a mansion on the outskirts of a town. He is an artist - and he draws really strange avante-garde paintings. But in his mind (since he's crazy), everything he paints comes to life and lives in his mansion.

He falls in love with a woman who lives in town, but he is so socially awkward that he can't get to know her. She thinks he's kind of a weirdo. So instead of further trying to get to know her, he paints a beautiful portrait of her, which comes to life and he now has a counterpart living with him in his mansion.

His paintings are naturally subservient to him. Therefore, his painting of this woman falls in love with him. But he grows bored of the painting and pines for the real thing. Having gotten to know the painting (which really is just a version of himself), he has the confidence to talk to the real woman. He gets to know her very well, until she begins to fall in love with him.

But this makes the painting very jealous. The painting becomes so jealous that she knows she has to exterminate the woman.

I don't know how the opera would end. Here is one idea:

The "painting" kills her. Really, it is the eccentric man who kills her himself.

If we decide to use this plot, it will need to be fleshed out. It needs details - more characters, more twists.

But I just think the idea of a man living alone in a mansion amidst all of his living art is a great tableux for an opera.

What do you guys think?

Do you have ideas for the plot?

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Sounds kinda Jekyll and Hyde (The Musical) meets Romeo and Juliet... I like it!!! I want to see how this shakes out, as I said... I am not a plot artist. However, if I see something cool, I may interject and add my opinion or send an idea or two along here and there. So, be expecting me.

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We can list out the cast and the plot. The plot would need more elaboration, and I would be most happy to help.


This opera will be done in a song and spoken manner, like, most scripts are in normal words, but there will be arias, music and sung parts to augment the climaxes and highlights of the plot. Chorus commentaries will be used extensively.


WW1 UK. WW1 had just started, with the assassination of the Austrian Archduke in the hands of a Serbian Nationalist. UK declares war at Germany and sends forces to aid the french in fighting off the German advance. @.@


The guy: preferably a counter tenor (to add on to the weirdness)



-quite good looking

-socially withdrawn

The lady: A lyric soprano



-Socially outgoing

-Tough exterior but insecure emotionally

-Beautiful (lol)

The artificial lady: A Mezzo soprano




-Withdrawn but responds to the guy.

Another creation of the Guy; A dude who resembles the guy's childhood friend, in love with the artificial lady: A tenor





(We need to give names to these characters eventually)

The plot can be divided into 5 acts;


Introducing the weird man and his creations. With an sung part of all his creations prior to the lady he drew on the man's weird ways and blah blah.

He will also get to know the woman in town in the first act. with a de-aligned duet between the people, the man with longing, the lady with a slight disgust.


A chorus will start singing on how embarrassed and insecure that guy is, and how he pins for that lady.

then, he starts drawing the lady and as he does, the drawing comes to life. After the guy leaves the stage for a while, the painting fully comes to life. A chorus will sing this climatic part with the artificial lady in a solo.

Enter the guy, partly amazed and partly pleased. there will be a script for this part. For most of it, it will be a monologue, with the artificial lady looking unto the guy with loving eyes.

Then, the guy finally leaves the stage, and the artificial lady starts a aria expressing her adoration for that guy, joined in by the chorus for the climax.


The guy goes to town, meets up with that real lady, and when they meet, they start talking. The guy, with newfound confidence in himself, gets to know the lady. (no

He gets abit upset when he knows that the real lady has a fiance, however, the fiance is serving in an army which is fighting in France in the ww1 .

News gets to the real lady that his fiance was killed in action. She grieves deeply. Orchestra will come in and chorus will sing a climatic part.


Lady contemplates suicide; The guy prevents her from doing so. Both sing a duet, and in the duet the guy will sing a comforting line, while the lady will sing a line that sounds erm, assured and a hint of falling in love with him.

The artificial lady looks at all this from afar and grows extremely jealous. She confides in another creation of the guy, a drawing of his childhood friend came alive, who is coincidentally, in love with the artificial lady. They both conspire to kill the real lady, while the childhood dude has his doubts.

Chorus comes in to sing of the love triangles, tangents and unrequited love.

5th Act:

Artificial lady executes plan to kill real lady. Childhood dude thwarts her plans by telling the weird guy about the plans.

Chorus takes over, starts singing, interluding with the two guys on a melocholic piece on contradicting feelings. After the singing, Dude confesses to Guy about his feelings for Artificial lady.

The two set out immediately in pursuit of artificial lady. when they reach her, she was already pointing her pistol at the real lady, who was absolutely shaken at another person who looks identical to her attempting to take her life.

Artificial lady shoots bullet, but the guy lunges to protect the real lady by shielding her with his body. Guy was shot in the chest and bleeding profusely.

Dude overpowers artificial lady and removes her from control of the fire arm. Real lady starts screaming.

(okay u people continue from here, hahaha)

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Well, you have to help write the libretto.

Anyways, good stuff.

One thing - to add some more intricacy to the plot:

Perhaps it doesn't happen during WWI, but rather in the future. But in a future where it seems like the past. You know, ladies are all wearing long dresses, everything is very traditional, but there are some subtle hints that this happens in the not too difference future. Maybe a reference to the "fall of America?"

Also, here's some more plot stuff that might make things more interesting.

The woman's father works for the "eugenics board."

Her father and his cronies want to evict him from his house, but they can't because it's just on the outskirts of town.

In order to get him gone, they have to prove that he's insane to the council (which is like the legal system, and it's different from the eugenics board).

It seems the only way to prove that he's insane is through his daughter, who seems to have a relationship with this man.

His daughter won't provide any evidence, because she loves him.

By the way, at this point I have to explain that what i meant when the fake woman tries to kill her is that really it is the man who tries to kill her, thinking it is his creation that is trying to kill her.

I think it might be better, and more subtle perhaps, if instead of him trying to kill her, he just sits down with her, back to back, and whispers "you have to get out of here. you have to protect yourself, otherwise she will kill you."

At that point, she realizes that she's not safe around him, and turns him in to her father, who now has the evidence he needs to have the insane man killed.

So basically it's a genocidal society which has almost achieved perfection except this one man.

Some themes that come out of this are:

everything works really well and everyone is really happy in their every day life until this insane man gets involved in things.

People think that they can acheive perfection by killing off things that are different, but human biology perpetuates differences. Perhaps at some point in the opera, the lady's sister can have a baby who everyone expects to be perfect (after all, he has a perfect celebrity father) but turns out to have mental defects. The theme is "differences can't be wiped out"

The man represents us, America, democracy. The town represents them, Germany, Aryans, fascism. This opera starts out by showing us a totally new perspective: a racist fascist society that operates perfectly. Meanwhile, the democratic crazy man who fosters diversity in all of his creations lives in a wreck (which in his mind is a palace.) This shows that our society is not as great as we think, but that our perfection is a delusion, and maybe our enemies are truly right.

But at the end of the play, after the crazy man is executed, that baby is born, other things happen, etc. proving that you can't eliminate bad from a society.


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I'm fascinated to watch, but alas I cannot join in... I'm working on an opera right now and I don't want any cross-pollination (as it were...).

Might I suggest a course of action to start with?

1. Determine the orchestra. Number of players, which instruments, etc.

2. Determine the main characters, their voice types (looks like you've already started that, see post #16)

3. Determine how many other people are required. Is there a chorus? If so, how many? Men? Women?

Try starting there and I'm sure that will help you all get on the same page.

Good luck! I can't wait to see what you come up with.

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Might I suggest that the countertenor be changed to tenor and the tenor to baritone? For once it's way easier to get performed, and a tenor can be as easily weird as a countertenor IMO. Countertenors, especially the good ones, are way rarer than baritones.

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