Don't miss: Tête à Tête's 10th annual Opera Festival

Don't miss: Tête à Tête's 10th annual Opera Festival

Jenna Simeonov

Later this month, Tête à Tête launches its 2017 Opera Festival in various venues around London’s King’s Cross. Running from July 24-August 13, this summer’s events mark the 10th anniversary of TAT’s Festival, and the show line-up runs the gamut of stories and music to pique your curiosity.

We spoke with Artistic Director Bill Bankes-Jones about Tête à Tête’s company longevity, and what he’s excited about for this year’s Opera Festival.

Photos, from top left: The Woman Who Refused to Dance (Shirley Thompson Music Productions); The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon (The Belfast Ensemble); ‘i’ - The Opera (Wastepaper Opera Company); A Certain Sense of Order (tick tock performance); A Winter’s Tale (The Hermes Experiment).

What do you think has kept Tête à Tête alive for 20 seasons?

I guess I’ve always been trying to peer round the corner, and see what might be needed by the opera sector (artists and audiences.) We’ve also always been very adventurous, very flexible and lithe, unafraid to venture into new territory. So the body of work has been hugely varied, from Fledermaus to new commissions to Streetwise Opera’s first show to Salad Days.

Can you tell us about what audiences can expect from this summer’s offerings?

It’s been a fantastic year to put together. The overbearing sense I have is artists with a burning desire to react to the very troubling political goings-on happening around us, so much about refugees, immigration, Trump and Brexit even. Which confirms the sense I’ve always had, that as well as programmes planned 3, 4, 5 years ahead, we also need somewhere for people to tackle their idea on a short timescale. So here it is, up to the minute and reactive.

How do you think contemporary themes and media (artificial intelligence, podcast operas) can find an organic place in genre like opera, which often seems of another generation?

Opera really doesn’t seem of another generation from where I’m looking. OK, so the output of the bigger opera houses follows a model determined in the nineteenth century and mostly looks like it, with a bit of technology stuck on. But in Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival we have a pool of really diverse artists of all ages making work for a young and urgent audience. They all come together under our wing not just for the work in the usual way, but also to discuss it, share ideas, see each other’s work.

Are there any events of the season about which you’re particularly excited?

The Cubitt Sessions are amazing. It was a revelation last year to see what happens when you make a programme of new opera but don’t tell the audience, require them to buy a ticket, walk through a door. By performing these pieces outside in the street for anyone, we found a whole new and radically different, diverse audience. I’m also particularly pleased to have Phelim McDermott and Improbable’s Devoted & Disgruntled: Opera, succeeding the Royal Opera and ENO as host. This is a vital forum for our community to gather, ruminate and take action. Finally, I’m myself really looking forward to directing a new piece Samuel Bordoli and I have created to be performed on the Caledonian sleeper train. Can’t wait!

For ticket information and full details about Tête à Tête’s 10th Anniversary Opera Festival (July 24-August 13), click here.

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