31 July 2014

Wonderful evening at Tête-à-Tête Opera Festival 2014 Day Three

I had arranged to work in our Kings Place office on this Thursday to facilitate my third visit to Tête-à-Tête Opera Festival 2014 which was being held the other side of the road and canal in Central Saint Martin.

The new location impressed me. Not only were the three formal performing spaces better but the other spaces, such as the bar and the area just outside of the entrance, were better too.

The outside area was ideal for the short pop-up operas that decorated the festival and I arrived in good time to grab a beer before catching the first one. The food stall that had been there in the first week was sadly absent so my evening meal was a packet of peanuts, something I am quite used to when seeing evening shows.

I had planned a fairly busy evening seeing three pieces and it was something of a whirl moving between performing spaces with brief trips to the bar for refills and some moments to speak to creatives.

Spirit Harbour was the first opera that I saw. This was staged in the main Platform Theatre where I easily got a seat in my favoured front row. As is often the case these days one of the performers was already on stage as we entered. I argued to myself that this was not part of the formal performance so I allowed myself to take my usual view-from-my-seat picture with her in it.

Spirit Harbour was a story within a story. A victim of the 2011 tsunami recalled a Noh play she had seen and retold it to us. Other characters appeared, some good and some bad, and their singing was complimented by the carefully designed movements across the stage while the orchestra played hidden on the right of the stage.

It was all very pretty and nicely done. A good start to the evening.

Flat Pack was one of the operas that I was really keen to see as I had seen some of The Opera Room's work before. This was in the White Lab which, as you can see, was very white.

I was told on going in that we were meant to stand and you can see from the angle of the picture that I did. It tended to be the younger people who chose to sit. I think that they missed something by doing so.

The simplistic summary says that there was just one singer (baritone Peter Brathwaite), two instruments (viola and bassoon) and the story was about a man's attempt to construct a flat pack drinks cabinet. But there was much more to it than that.

Firstly the musical was delightful and was far more than simple accompaniment and secondly the story was more complex with the man facing difficult challenges in his relationship and career, challenges he hopes that his new drinks cabinet can help him through.

Flat Pack was a fully formed micro-opera (their term) and I absolutely loved it.

Tonseisha – The Man Who Abandoned the World was the third and final opera that I had booked that night and it was decidedly odd, in a good way. I think.

It was odd because it crammed so much in, including tapes, videos and the clatter of an old typewriter. At times I felt that it was verging on pretension but it never quite got there and it remained entertaining, if challenging, all the way through.

The opera was inspired by the works of Richard Brautigan who I had never heard of but reading about him now explains something of the fragmented nature of the piece and the confluence of Japan and Middle America.

Not the easiest opera to enjoy but I did.

My final opera of the evening was another pop-up (i.e. it was free) but this time we were led into the main campus. This is indoors and is a public space just behind the main entrance. By public I mean that there is no physical barrier to entry, to venture in to the main parts of the building you need a swipe card.

Sweeper of Dreams: The Calling was a cute little opera that told the story of a young woman applying for the job of Sweeper of Dreams, a job that had been seen as being a man's job. The people interviewing her were all women dressed as men. It was a fun and refreshing way to end the evening.

It is for days like this that I go to Tête-à-Tête Opera festivals as often as I can. I saw several very different pieces, all with a very modern take, all of which entertained. I would gladly see all of them again.

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