Taking place at venues in London, the 15th Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival takes place from 15 August to 11 September and features a programme of 27 new events.
The biggest festival of new opera in the UK, Tête à Tête invites composers, librettists and artists to push the boundaries of the artform, and experiment with and redefine what we mean by opera. The festival’s aim is to give artists free rein to present their work. Its goal is to reach new audiences, support artist development, and extend the definition of traditional opera.
This year, 27 musical events will take place across three London venues: the Cockpit in Marylebone, Summer Sounds in Coal Drops Yard, Kings Place in the King’s Cross area, and the Anspach and Hobday Brewery in Bermondsey.
The festival covers an eclectic range of musical styles, events, artforms and stories. You can expect folk music, poetry, dance, film, Arabic classical music, cantata, sci-fi opera and more.
Highlights include Besse: Water, Rye and Hops, produced by Infinite Opera. Described as the world’s first opera about beer, it tells the story of Besse, a medieval brewer living in 1348 AD on the cusp of social change.
She is in love with beer and the independence it affords her as she follows in the footsteps of the brewers and goddesses spanning 5,000 years before her. Faced with accusations of witchcraft, though, If she does not act fast the power of beer will be taken from her.
This site-specific production takes place on 24 August at the Anspach and Hobday Brewery in south-east London. Tickets are £15.
GANGA is a work-in-progress chamber opera based on original Sanskrit texts from Mahabharata by Veda Vyasa and Atharvaveda. Additional Sanskrit texts are by Dr Baldevanand Sagar, with English texts by Jataneel Banerjee; the music has also been composed by Banerjee.
Ganga is a powerful, yet helpless, celestial river goddess, whose womb becomes the medium to fulfil the higher purpose of gods and men. Cursed and doomed to be born as mortals, the eight Vasus choose Ganga to be their mother. She promises to release all but one from the curse; the last must live on earth.
The half-hour performance takes place at the Cockpit, north-west London, at 7pm on 31 August. Tickets cost £15.
Outlier, produced by Outlier Opera Company and with music by composer Josh Kaye and a libretto by Kaye and Alanya Noquet, tells the story of Thomas, a junior doctor. He attends a patient in an unknown ward – the outlier of the title. He goes home to his girlfriend Rachel, but his thoughts are still on the events of the night.
The piece explores guilt and culpability in the NHS and considers the life-changing decisions medics have to make in challenging circumstances.
It takes place at the Cockpit on 7 September. Tickets cost £15.
Closing the festival is The Crocodile of Old Kang Pow, a comic opera set in 18th-century Paris and a tropical jungle. One is a foetid swamp – the other has a lot of crocodiles.
The Marquis De Sade has lost his libido and must find it or lose his head to the chopping block of Marie Antoinette. His quest takes him to a mythical world to petition the Crocodile God of fertility, who is having libido-related problems of his own.
With words and music by Darren Berry, it combines opera, gospel, puppetry, elixirs, profanity, irreverence and high art with low morals and swashbuckling sword fights. It will be performed at the Cockpit on 11 September. Tickets cost £15.
The remaining productions in this year’s Tête à Tête are:
- Toadette, the Frog Opera, a love story between a frog and a toad;
- Mezzaterra, a song-cycle based on themes of culture and identity;
- Module 471, a new work-in-progress scifi-horr-opera;
- A Coffin, A Confession, and A Cautionary Tale, a triple-bill of sung monologues;
- She Is My Pharaoh, a cinematic performance installation;
- The Burning Question, a comic opera;
- Voices of the Sands, a dramatic cantata;
- Film, a musical response to the short film of the same name;
- Landed, a work-in-progress combining autobiographical text, live improvisation and music;
- 1936: Fishing, a poignant exploration of LGBT history;
- The Trans Lady Sings – The First Aria, a work in progress combining prose, verse, comedy, performance art and song;
- The Trilobite, Or The Fall Of Mr Williams, an opera based on the final 10 seconds of its protagonist’s life;
- Fossils, Lies & Poison, a three-part operatic taster based on justice;
- Sometimes I visualise myself…, an immersive work exploring a desire to go back to the womb;
- THE RED ROOM, a portable opera for three voices;
- Music and the Brain, an opera about brain damage;
- A New England, a work about Alfred, King of the West Saxons;
- Memoirs of an Amnesiac: The Life of Erik Satie, a set of surreal, humorous vignettes based on Satie’s writings;
- The Dong with a Luminous Nose, a magical, tragical tale of love and loss told in poetry, music and mime;
- The Journey, the story of a Man who decides to escape the confines of his existence and travel in search of a better life.
Tickets for all shows are on sale now. For further details, see the Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival website.
Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 2022 takes place at venues across London from 15 August to 11 September.