Krugman-Ilves Twitter war lives on in song

Jan 18, 2013

It ain’t over till the fat lady sings—or, in this case, the bow-tied president and the Nobel Prize-winning professor.

A quarrel between Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and American economist Paul Krugman over Estonia’s alleged “economic triumph” that erupted on Twitter last June has been transformed into a short operatic piece, reports Agence France Presse.

An opera in two movements, “Nostra Culpa” (a term borrowed from Ilves’ Twitter tirade) features Ilves and Krugman debating the merits of austerity versus stimulus. The 16-minute piece will debut during Tallinn Music Week in April.

“The drama comes not simply from the subject matter which is inherently dramatic, but from the fact that this story, between Professor Krugman and President Ilves, is something that affects so many people in Europe, in the United States, around the world,” libretto author Scott Diel told AFP.

Inspired by the musicality of the words “austerity” and “stimulate,” Diel and composer Eugene Birman chose the “financial opera” medium to explore the opposing viewpoints through art.

“Arguments just make great listening sometimes,” Birman told Estonian Public Broadcoasting.

With 66 words and one bland graph questioning the reality of the Baltic nation’s economic recovery, Krugman provoked an offended Ilves into firing off a series of Tweets heard around the world.

“Guess a Nobel in trade means you can pontificate on fiscal matters & declare my country a ‘wasteland’. Must be a Princeton vs Columbiathing,” Tweeted the American-educated Ilves at the time.

Although reluctant to discuss the feud, Ilves later said growing up in theUnited States made him more aware of “Western condescension” towards little countries and that’s why he retaliated so vehemently.

Krugman responded to the Tweets with another graph and blog post titled “Ballistic in the Baltics,” and has since been dispelling the Latvian austerity model as well.

Act II can’t be far behind.

Image: The Opera Singers, Thomas Rolandson

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Nirvana Bhatia

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