Tête à Tête director Bill-Bankes Jones describes opera as ‘the most visceral of art forms. Unless its driver is something that forces a raw primal cri de coeur, it makes no sense.’ Hence some of last year’s themes: ‘the moment of childbirth, an all-consuming frustration at Trump’s Immigration ban, knife-throwing, and Brexit.’ This year, being equally troubled, promises more such rage and frustration.
The festival opens with Cubitt Sessions, small free performances given in the King’s Cross area. These include Errollyn Wallen and her band performing selections from The Errollyn Wallen Songbook; Nightshade: Aubergine, a kind of culinary ‘music theatre road movie’; and Toscatastrophe, the festival’s attempt to ‘massacre’ (their word) a classic opera.
Whilst the main programme defies categorisation it is possible to discern the cri de coeur to which Bankes refers—operas include: The Good Immigrant, an exploration of race & identity in contemporary Britain; Blue Electric, which features ‘Cafés and nightclubs, shifty boyfriends and broken friendships’; Nibiru, a ‘techno tone-poem musing on the end of the world, estate agents, social networking, internet conspiracy theories, and large, invasive, tap-dancing happeee-celestial bodies’; and Earth Makes No Sound, a ‘provocation about our planet and how we look after it.’
There’s a lot else besides, most of it not nearly so angsty, so have a rummage round in the programme before deciding whether you want to attend. I can only say that I spent a splendid few days at Tête à Tête last year—so whatever you see it will provoke and entertain (and maybe infuriate just a tiny bit too…).