Peter Reynolds: Sands of Time (1993)

Opera in four minutes and nine seconds.

Searching for something very short to review, I found this never published (the score that is) Guinness World Record holder for the shortest opera in the world. Written in a single evening. The Welsh composer described its relationship to opera as a miniature is to a full portrait, yet the influences are strongly mid-19th century (Meyerbeer, Rossini, Verdi). It premiered outside a shopping center in Cardiff, Wales, the recording below is of that performance.

SETTING: A 1990s British home kitchen. Flo (soprano) can only make soft-boiled eggs even though her husband Stan (baritone) only likes the hard-boiled variety. They quarrel until a chorus of girls shows up to tell them that they have won the Football Pools, and they are reconciled.


0: The overture is detectably fast but has an obvious 19th century tune, it is followed by a brief aria for Flo as she starts boiling an egg for Stan.

1: Stan has a forty-five second aria about how much he loves himself and thinks Flo should thank her lucky stars for being married to him. Flo strikes him for his arrogance. Someone is knocking at the door.

3: A chorus of girls shows up to tell them that they have won a large sum of money at the football pools and they are reconciled in a joyous finale.


This is a bizarrely entertaining work, if it does seem to be a commercial for something. The wife is crazy, the husband is full of himself, and the chorus of girls who bend the rules is bemusing to say the least. Most of the basic elements of opera are here: (overture, arias, duet, recitative, chorus, finale). I only wish Stan were a tenor instead of a baritone, but that is just me being me. An amusing mini-alpha.

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