Tête à Tête ‒ The Opera Festival: Opening this week

- 31 July 2013

Tête à Tête ‒ The Opera Festival opens this week, running 1-18 August at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, London.

The festival runs on Thursdays to Sundays for three weeks, with four or five productions running concurrently in chunks of two days. Audiences are encouraged to see more than one work per visit.

Showcasing 30 productions in its seventh year, the festival opens with Gala, a puppet opera by writer-composer Ergo Phizmiz inspired by Salvador Dalí’s wife Gala’s ‘rapacious relationship’ with Jeff Fenholt, a young actor who was playing the role of Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway (1&2 August).

Also on 1&2 August, Lore Lixenberg’s comedy The End of Civilisation As We Know It is ‘a love letter to the operatic form’ in which an opera singer collects paraphernalia form different operas and takes them with her into a panic room ‘so that at least Mozart, Wagner and Verdi should survive’, and Pete Wyer’s La Belle de la Bête is an ‘upbeat, lyrical opera’ portraying the relationship between a Barbadian slave and an English aristocrat, ‘trapped in their nightmarish history of enslaver and enslaved’, in which the musicality of the Barbadian language and English cadences promise to ‘transform a divisive past into a shared future for present-day British-Barbadian culture’.

Highlights later in the schedule include Michael Finnissy and librettist Andrew Marshall’s follow up to Madame Butterfly in which, 30 years on, Pinkerton’s senatorial election campaign is interrupted by his son, who has travelled to America to meet him (Mme Butterfly: The One Man Opera, 3&4 August), and two operas by Size Zero Opera: Viagron adapts Roman writer Petronius’ The Satyricon with music by Arne Gieshoff and words by Frank Allison, and Kettlehead is a ‘twisted tale of voodoo and revenge’ by Darren Bloom with words by Neil Georgeson.

The Secretary Turned CEO (10&11 August) is a radical refurbishment of Pergolesi’s 1733 opera buffa La serva padrona in a white-collar adaptation by Becca Marriott with a contemporary, guitar-based soundscape created by composer Danyal Dhondy and performed by Dionysios Kyropoulos, Charlie Drummond and Alberto Prandini.

Kerry Andrew’s Dart’s Love, which tells the story of a jealous love triangle between a man, his girlfriend and the River Dart (17&18 August) is a festival commission directed by Tête à Tête’s artistic director Bill Bankes-Jones with words by Tamsin Collison. It is inspired by the traditional couplet ‘River Dart, River Dart, every year thou claim’st a heart’ as well as the composer’s love of outdoor swimming.

Kerry Andrew will also perform that weekend as part of vocal group Juice, in Richard Barnard’s The Hidden Valley, a commission by Welsh National Opera with a libretto by Alan Harris. As a brief synopsis reads: ‘An old crow tells a tale of a hidden valley where a river-princess falls in love with a cow herder and a king gives up his power.’

Soprano Jane Manning will lead a contemporary opera workshop on the festival’s final day (18 August), in which she will sight-read and discuss a selection of new works with newly appointed Tête à Tête music director Timothy Burke. The festival is calling for anyone who wants to experiment with writing extended vocal techniques to submit their works. Submission deadline is 12:00 on 18 August 2013. Click here for details.

The festival this year is loosely themed on airlines: visitors dressed as air crew members will be admitted free.


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