Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 2021 will go ahead in full this summer, following last year’s much reduced event, innovative opera company Tête à Tête has announced.

The festival comprises a huge number of new operas, along with physical theatre, dramatised poetry and even an ‘app-era’, a dating and friendship app in which users can only communicate via vocal technique. It runs from the 27 July to mid-September. Performances take place at The Cockpit theatre in north-west London, Coal Drop Yard, located a few minutes from King’s Cross rail station, east London’s Round Chapel and online, with tickets starting from just £1.

“Full of intrepid artists exploring novel possibilities across new opera, from sword-fighting sopranos to an operatic dating app, interactive rituals to techno raves, we look forward to welcoming you safely back to explore the brave world of new opera at #TàTFest2021 from next month,” Tête à Tête said in a statement.

The event opens on 27 July with Her War, a challenging new opera for soprano and trumpet about a traumatised nurse who returns from World War I only to clash with an uncaring government, forcing her to become a pioneer for nurses’ rights.

Her War is based on the research of three leading academics in WWI nursing trauma: Dr Christine Hallett, Amanda Gwinnup, Denise Poynter. It offers long-overdue recognition of nurses’ contribution to the war effort and highlights the striking parallels between their experiences and those of contemporary nurses processing their own struggles with trauma in the Covid-19 pandemic.

“First World War nurses experienced many different forms of trauma, ranging from the obvious dangers and pressures of working in a war zone – sometimes very close to the battlefield – to the more hidden and pervasive traumas that accompanied ‘rushes’ of casualties in under-staffed hospitals,” Dr Hallett commented.

“Nurses’ personal writings often refer to the stress of watching patients die who could have been saved if only more time or more personnel had been available. Many nurses carried these memories with them for the rest of their lives, and some suffered severe emotional trauma or mental illness as a result.

“The parallels with today’s Covid-19 ‘front-line’ nurses are obvious. The relentless pressure of struggling to preserve lives that might be saved but are lost in spite of one’s best efforts, due to workload pressures, lack of equipment or just for unknown reasons, leaves a heavy physical and mental toll.”

The Hildegard von Bingen Society for Gardening Companions presents A Garden Variety is an online collection of recipes and rituals for care inspired by the healing botanical cures of Hildegard von Bingen, a 12th century mystic and musician. Throughout the festival, Tête à Tête will gather together a community-created collection of activities including cooking, gardening, singing, sewing, crafting and letter-writing.

New activities will be posted online everyday, allowing readers to take part and then suggest their own tips, treats or rituals. You can send your own contributions to The Hildegard von Bingen Society for Gardening Companions via the website.

Three productions will be presented as works in progress. While There’s Light is a selection of works from composer Sarah Sarhandi and writer Vincent Katz’s opera based on Katz’s award-winning translations of the love poems of 1st century BCE Roman poet Sextus Propertiu.

Sophie fuses music, dance, verbatim, art and poetry to tell the story of Swiss artist and dancer Sophie Taeuber-Arp, exploring her career and relationship with Jean Arp, her fellow Dadaist. The Language of Flowers is a scratch performance of new work combining sequential art and opera to reveal the true history of the enigmatic and swashbuckling Princess Pauline Metternich.

Breaking new ground is SINGLR, described by Tête à Tête as an ‘app-era’. Created by voice artist Loré Lixenberg, SINGLR is a dating and friendship app in which the user profile is the voice and nothing more – no text, photos or information about the participant are allowed.

Users will be sent daily tasks in the form of new people to vocalise to, as well as mini-videos and podcasts on the art of extended vocals and wild-card tips and advice to spark their imagination and confidence. The app will be running for a limited time leading up to the festival; contact Tête à Tête via the website if you want to take part in the experiment. 

The festival also includes HER BODY: The Anatomy of a Woman, a fusion of physical theatre, art installation and abstract soundscape which explores our relationship to mind, body and spirit, The Crocodile of Old Kang Pow, a comic opera about the Marquis de Sade, Shut Down The Club, an operatic techno rave, and Guide to the Lakes, a theatrical picnic and tourist guide to the Lake District based on the works of William and Dorothee Wordsworth. 

Each live performance has a corresponding digital broadcast taking place two or three days after. Each broadcast features a special Q&A session and a recording will be available for 28 days following the initial showing.

It is anticipated that coronavirus safety restrictions will be in place, including social distancing and mask wearing. This means that capacity for shows is very limited. This is just a selection of the events on offer; for full programme details and to book tickets, visit Tête à Tête’s website.



Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 2021 will take place in July and August.