3 August 2013

Tête-à-Tête Opera Festival 2013 Day Two was an excellent mixed bill

My decision to go to Tête-à-Tête Opera Festival 2013 six times is proving to be a good plan and my Day Two offered another mixed bill of operatic entertainment.

Two Clowns: Pagliacci and Gorgonio opened the evening with two different pieces. In the first a pianist wrestles with his page turner to great comic effect, assisted by one of them looking like a cross between Marty Feldman and Andy Zaltzman.

To give just one example of their merry japes, when setting up to play the page turner find that the stool is too far from the piano so he tries to pull the piano towards him.

The second part replaced comedy with strangeness. An opera singer had lost his voice and he told us that story through a recorded voice synthesizer. Accompanying the story was a pianist and a soprano to make it something approaching an opera. Whatever it was it was intelligent and fun.

Black Sand was a fully-formed piece that describes itself as a horror opera. That was what attracted me to it and it lived up to its billing.

It is America 1952, and Nathanael is madly in love with Olympia but is being tormented by the Sandman. Terrified he decides his only defence is to sleep forever.

Nathanael is haunted, Olympia is sympathetic but does not understand and the Sandman has the easy charm and the looks of Rock Hudson.

The story was concise, coherent and compelling; all good tributes. The music and the singing were splendid too. Dark Star was a dense and dark treat, like Death By Chocolate only with a somewhat less happy ending.

There was so much packed in to the forty minutes or so that, like Soon the day before, Dark Star easily warrants another viewing, even if it means traipsing over to Dalston to do so.

Mme Butterfly: The One Man Opera was amazing.

The one man was the son of the original Mme Butterfly who had grown in to a young man and had travelled to America to meet his father, Pinkerton. As he sat waiting patiently for several days for an audience with the great man he told us about his past as a mixed-race child in Japan, what drew him to America.

As with much at the festival, Mme Butterfly is hard to categorise. It is largely a monologue that is acted out with great flourish and attention to detail. For example. I loved Ignacio Jarquin's use of Japanese gestures and the way he flicked his baggy trousers out of the way when kneeling.

A few musician kept him company, most prominent were a flute and a xylophone, and they produced snatches of sound that carried the distinctive Japanese twang. There was some singing from Ignacio Jarquin too, a few songs to puncture the narrative.

Mme Butterfly was a good tale excellently told. A lot of work went in to all aspects of the production, and it showed.

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