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.
Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, better known by his stage name Joe Exotic, is an American (former) zoo operator now turned convicted felon who became infamous after the release of Netflix’s Tiger King documentary, which focused on the 57-year-old and his archenemy, Carole Baskin. What fewer people might be aware of is that Exotic is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence after being convicted of plotting a murder-for-hire against Big Cat Rescue owner Baskin, among other charges.
Since March 2020, he has been incarcerated at FMC Fort Worth in Texas and by June 2020, Baskin received control of Exotic’s zoo property. Now, as if this story wasn’t crazy enough, Exotic is hoping that Kim Kardashian West will help get him out from behind bars. In a new handwritten letter obtained by ET, the Tiger King star writes to the reality star and criminal justice reform activist, asking for her help in getting a presidential pardon from President Donald Trump.
The letter reads, “I know you have never met me and may never want to however I do believe that you hold the values of our justice system dear to your heart,” Joe writes in the letter dated Nov. 4. “I am writing you this letter not as Joe Exotic but as the person Joseph Maldonado-Passage, asking you to please help me by just taking 10 minutes out of your life and placing a call to President Trump to look at my 257 page pardon it’s all the evidence I’m innocent and ask him to sign my pardon so I can return home to [my husband] Dillon and my father.”
Exotic adds, “I have lost 57 years of work, my zoo, my animals, my mother has died, my dad is dying and I’ve been taken away from my husband who I love dearly. Everyone is so busy making movies, getting interviews, selling stuff and dressing up like me that everyone forgot I’m a real live person in prison and kept from even telling my own story for something I didn’t do.”
Towards the end of the letter, he explains to Kardashian that “No one even has to know you did it.”
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Ironically, Kardashian has already shown that she is a big Tiger King fan. Back in October, the mother of four and her friend, Jonathan Cheban, dressed up as Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic for Halloween with her kids as tigers. She also expressed an interest in the series back in March, tweeting, “Wow the amount of texts I’ve gotten about Tiger King since I tweeted about it all have mentioned their belief that Carol killed her husband! What are your thoughts? Do you think Carol killed him?”
So far, it hasn’t been precised whether the celebrity intends to help Exotic out. But in the meantime, Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue has offered to have Kardashian come visit their sanctuary, which she hasn’t responded publicly to either.