Finalists of the 5-Minute Opera Competition



Ten finalists were chosen to participate in the 5-Minute Opera competition taking place at the Music Biennale Zagreb in April. Here are their names and compositions:


Magnus Bunnskog (Sweden): Traum


Romain Corbisier (France): Tentation


Petter Ekman (Sweden): Dasha's Sense of Pride


Margareta Jerić (Canada/Croatia): The Feast of Nemesis


Kevin Juillerat (Switzerland): Souvenirs de Berlin


Martyna Kosecka (Poland): Kochawaya


Steven Prengels (Belgium): Dramaturgie d'une passion


Gillis Sacré (Belgium): L'hypnose


Juan Maria Solare (Argentina): Dear Mr. Millionaire


Lina Tonia (Greece): Fear &(s) the Love


What were the jury's criteria in selecting the finalists among 91 scores that had been submitted? The opportunity to interview Polish composer and pianist Zygmunt Krauze, president of the jury, Austrian conductor Edo Mičić, and Croatian composer and conductor Mladen Tarbuk arose right after they reached their decision. We also wanted to know whether the members of the jury came across five-minute operas before, and what they thought of this competition.

Zygmunt Krauze: I think the idea to hold this competition is very original. I would like to congratulate the organizers for deciding to give the composers, mostly young in this case, a chance to try their hand at composing such a piece. I have to add that it is extremely difficult to compose. When someone mentions opera, we immediately think of a larger form. To translate the idea of opera into such a short piece is a very difficult task.

During his great career, Edo Mičić conducted whole operas and individual scenes, but he never came across operas which are only several minutes long. On the other hand, Mladen Tarbuk says:

(…) the five-minute form is not so rare today, mostly due to lack of money. If you want to make something within the opera genre, and you are short on funds, you will decide to do a piece on a smaller scale, with fewer singers and a smaller orchestra. Understandably, Biennale (MBZ) took that path, following the trends at other festivals and competitions. I think the idea of a five-minute opera is very interesting because it requires invention, not only in composing, but also in dramatics.

The members of the jury obviously did not know what kind of scores to expect. It was the opportunity to be part of a jury that brought Zygmunt Kruze to Croatia: I was interested to know what the potential of a five-minute opera is. If I took on that challenge, I would compose a minimalist piece.

All the jury members agree that this form can adequately demonstrate the capabilities and qualities necessary to compose a full length opera. A new work will be commissioned from the competition winner, an opera to be performed at the 29th Biennale. Zygmunt Krauze cannot remember the number of times he acted as a member of juries at various competitions, but he is certain it exceeds fifty:

My experience allows me to recognize a "true" composer as soon as I look at the first page of a score. In two seconds I can tell if it is a composer, or a person who merely scribbles notes on a piece of paper or in a computer programme. It is not difficult for me to recognize a true composer. I know right away if they have something to say.

Edo Mičić says that a composer who is able to show what he or she can do in five minutes can do the same in an hour. Mladen Tarbuk shares his belief, saying that there is no big difference between composing a miniature and a longer piece. When you compose a five minute piece, he says, you need to have many ideas up your sleeve. The composition must be far richer than a 35 minute work.

The members of the jury found the task of selecting finalists easy and pleasant. They were guided by some common criteria, such as the techniques of composing and musical literacy, but each of them put emphasis on different parametres. Zygmunt Krauze looked for originality, individual colour, idea, and did not care for perfection, whereas Mladen Tarbuk thought it was interesting that in some cases the libretto was better than the music. I was pleased because in opera, it is usually the other way around.

Edo Mičić thought it was important that scores correspond to contemporaneity: When I noticed that something reflects the time we live in, I would start analyzing it very thoroughly.

Along with the criteria of musical literacy and professionalism, Mladen Tarbuk needs to feel drawn to the score. He adds: I do not know how the next jury will vote, it would be unwise to speculate, but I had two favorites. I would very gladly perform these two scores if I had the chance.

According to the jury, we will hear ten diverse operas. They, too, are looking forward to the performances. In the words of Zygmunt Krauze: Imagining how a score sounds is one thing; hearing the music is entirely different. That will be the test of our work.