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Estonia leader's Twitter feud to become opera

16 January 2013
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves addresses the press outside Paris's Elysee Palace on January 7, 2013
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Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves addresses the press outside Paris's Elysee Palace on January 7, 2013. A Twitter feud in June between the Estonian president and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman who questioned the impact of Estonia's austerity measures, is being turned into an opera, US composer Eugene Birman told AFP on Wednesday

A Twitter feud in June between the Estonian president and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman who questioned the impact of Estonia's austerity measures, is being turned into an opera, US composer Eugene Birman told AFP on Wednesday.

"Our short opera will be first performed by Iris Oja and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra conducted by Risto Joost during Tallinn Music Week on April 7," Birman, who moved from Riga to the US at age of six, told AFP.

The piece, in two movements, uses two voices, those of Krugman and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, reflecting their exchanges on the Twitter social network.

"'Nostra Culpa' (Our Fault) is a short 16 minutes operatic piece which takes up the age-old economic disagreement of austerity vs. stimulus," journalist Scott Diel, who wrote the opera's libretto, told AFP.

The bow-tie loving Ilves went on a tweet-rant after Krugman, the winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Economics, argued in a short article entitled "Estonian Rhapsody" that while Estonia had been globally praised for its austerity measures, its recovery was in fact lukewarm.

"Let's write about something we know nothing about & be smug, overbearing & patronizing...Guess a Nobel in trade means you can pontificate on fiscal matters & declare my country a 'wasteland,'" Ilves responded on his page on the on the micro-blogging site Twitter.

"But yes, what do we know? We're just dumb and silly East Europeans," he added, before writing in his final tweet, "Let's sh*t on East Europeans."

Estonia is an ex-Soviet Baltic state of 1.3 million people which regained independence in 1991 and joined the EU in 2004, and the eurozone in 2011.

Its economy shrank by a 14.3 percent in 2009, on the heels of the global financial crisis.

Its austerity-minded centre-right government imposed painful austerity cuts in order to keep the national debt at an EU record low.

Economic growth returned in 2010, with output expanding by 2.3 percent, and went on to post an increase of 7.6 percent in 2011. It was forecast to see 2.2 percent growth last year.

"Better than no recovery at all, obviously — but this is what passes for economic triumph?" Krugman quipped in his piece.

"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," Diel told AFP.

"The financial crisis affected the lives of people rich and poor, but the story of how we came out of it is still being written. Music can be a really important part of thinking about it, that's the role music has played a lot in history," he noted.

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