25 August 2012

Last night at Tete a Tete Opera Festival 2012

I'm a glutton for pleasure and so I went to the Tete a Tete Opera Festival 2012 four times altogether finishing with consecutive nights. That made it eleven operas in all and six in two days. Nothing wrong with that.

Mermaid of Zennor was my first choice of the evening.

We entered in to a darkened Studio 2 to find a man unconscious on the stage. The ropes, nets, blue hues (and the title of the opera) tell us that he has washed up on the shore.

He slowly recovers and in-between his waking and dreaming he is visited in turn by a mermaid and a tourist walking the coastal path.

The music is slow and haunting as the three figures take it in turns to describe what they see without interacting with each other or even being particularly aware of each other's existence. The only reality is the view of the tourist and all she can see is the man.

The music was surprisingly playful and while it is a new piece it reminded me of Walton's Facade in its jauntiness and the way it played with pitch.

It's a sad story but the mood of the myth triumphs over that and the lasting memory is of mystery not the outcome.

The Yellow Dress was had a surprisingly similar musical feel to it and also featured a drowning (or two) but it was a completely different kettle of fish.

We meet an old woman in a care home. She has fleeting memories of the past most of which involve fondness for the sea which we could see playing out on the screen behind her.

Her daughter comes to visit and this is clearly a duty rather than a love, though there is affection there.

As they sing to each other we learn more about them and their past. After setting the steadily setting the scene and just when you think you know where the story is going it goes somewhere else.

First we learn the mystery of the yellow dress and the young girl who was wearing it. Then the daughter's lover arrives in a similar dress. The lover comes up with a simple plan to free the daughter from the mother and the opera ends as she puts this plan in to action.

This is a very operatic story and leaves you with a very satisfied if disturbed feeling.

Amerika ended the evening on a light note.

It adapts the first part of Franz Kafka's story of the same name about a young man sent to 1920's America to escape personal troubles in Europe.

He goes through a series of episodes in a carefree manner meeting people who try to help and hinder him along the way.

The opera stood out immediately because of the purity of the singing from the two male leads.

I sat in the second row for most of the operas (and scowled when somebody took "my seat") and even from there some of the voices in some of the operas were a little hard to follow, there were no surtitles here. I had no objection to that, I did not expect Glyndebourne singers at £6 a pop, but it was always nice to find a clear voice and here we had two.

The humour was played nicely mostly thanks to the acting and this was reinforced by the scrolling backdrop that carried sketches related to the scene, e.g. the story opens with a picture of a liner to tell us that we are on a ship.

The post-performance questionnaire suggested that this opera might also be extended, presumably to cover the whole book, and while I am not against that idea I think that it would only work if the various episodes had some mood changes. The slapstick humour worked well for an hour but I am not sure that it would stretch beyond that.

My last day of the festival was rich and rewarding taking me sweetly through myth, murder and mirth. All three operas played their parts well telling different stories differently.

And all that means that I will be going to the Tete a Tete Opera Festival 2013 (hoping there is one) quite a few times.

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