If I had told you back in February 2020—just over a month before the first episode of Tiger King’s season one aired on Netflix—that we would all soon get into a binge-watching craze over Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin’s spat in the small but deeply interconnected society of big cat conservationists, you would have never believed me. And yet, Tiger King is now back on our screens for a second season, but that’s not all. The TV show will also make a special appearance on the screens of our phones, in the form of a five-act ‘TikTopera’. Let me explain.
A day before the launch of season two, the English National Opera (ENO) announced that it will team up with TikTok stars for an opera based on the hit series. “Opera is an art form that deals best with epic themes—rival worlds, passionate love, carnal lusts, and monstrous betrayal. In many ways, it’s the art form that this story was made for,” said ENO’s Chief Executive Stuart Murphy. “Opera can speak to all ages. What’s really timeless is people’s yearning to tell stories, listen to stories and get inside worlds. Shows like The Chestnut Man or Making a Murderer are all brilliantly told stories. We’re in a similar Venn diagram. And actually, when people turn up, they’re like ‘Wow, I didn’t realise it was that epic’,” Murphy continued.
The series of 60-second videos on TikTok features Sophie Aurora, Hannah Lother, Hellovicco, X Factor finalists Max and Harvey, and Britain’s Got Talent’s Phil Green; each offering an operatic spin on the “murder, mayhem and madness” of Tiger King’s first season.
With TikTok being one of the few social media platforms that really have music and audio at the centre of it, Murphy explained that it felt like the perfect place to re-imagine epic stories for the social media age and bring opera to a new audience. “In many ways, it’s the art form that this story was made for,” he added.
The five-act opera, which is set to the music of Georges Bizet’s 1875 masterpiece ‘Carmen’, has been brought to life by the ENO’s orchestra and 40-person chorus. With the first part of it already live on TikTok, it’s clear to see that so far, the show’s interpretation hasn’t received much praise—and after watching it myself, I can understand why.
That being said, while this specific TikTopera might not be worth it, it represents the early beginning of an interesting shift in the video-sharing app’s go-to format. It would take only one video from a TikTopera to go viral for content creators to jump on the trend—resulting in a return to the app’s humble roots, Musical.ly.