7 August 2014

Entertaining evening at Tête-à-Tête Opera Festival 2014 Day Four


For its third and final week Tête-à-Tête Opera Festival 2014 shifted slightly from Central Saint Martins to Kings Place. I work at Kings Place, on the top floor. Omens like that cannot be ignored and worked in the office (rather than at home) on the Thursday and Friday so that I could go straight to the festival.

That proved to be a good plan as on the Thursday I found myself working until after 6pm and so the only way that I could have got to Kings Place in time was to already be there. The bar and cafe on the ground floor were open, as usual, so I helped myself to a pint of Becks Vier and an egg roll before going down two levels to the opera zone.

Despite having worked at Kings Place since it opened I had never been to any performances there and I was looking forward to seeing this side of the building in action.

I almost fell at the first hurdle as I tried to use the online booking system (it was cheaper that way) only to have it fail on me, so I went downstairs to book it there. They could only book me in to one of the two shows that night as the other was sold out. Luckily the Tête-à-Tête was also at the desk and she explained that online booking stopped at 12:00 on the day of performance as they had to print off and sort out the tickets then and she was about to do them for the sold-out show and if they had a spare then I could have it. They did.

Women Box by Size Zero Opera was my first show. This was in Hall 2 which was just a room with a raised stage and some chairs.

The performance was actually four separate pieces.

Opening and closing it were String Quartet I and II by Mauricio Kagel. These were decidedly weird and the main point seemed to be to find out how many ways you can make noise out of a traditional music instrument. At one point a cello was played upside down. This was music that demanded attention and never let you relax.

In the middle were two operatic pieces that looked at the role of women in what were traditionally men's roles, boxing and conducting.

The boxing piece made quiet an impression on me with its movement. The singer had been coached by a female boxer and it showed. Her foot and head movements were particularly convincing. She could sing too and it was a nice little piece,

In the second a woman conductor first disguised herself as a man (not very convincingly) and then decided to be proud of her femininity and stripped down to a somewhat distracting negligee. That may be why I have largely forgotten the music.

The four pieces worked well together and I had a fun hour watching them.

On the Axis of This World was almost a filler, chosen just because I was there and it was on, but it proved to be one of my favourites in the Festival.

The blurb said that it was an operatic meditation on the vast perspectives of Antarctica so I was expecting something Vaughan Williams-ish, and it was.

The slow gentle music was joined by two male voices, an interesting combination of countertenor and baritone, and an actor/narrator.

Stylistically it reminded me of Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Centre of the Earth, which is a favourite of mine.

It was a gentle, strong and distinctive opera which I enjoyed immensely.

I found the communal spaces at Kings Place less welcoming than Central Saint Martins, there was no draught beer and the acoustics made it very noisy, so I did not linger long looking for people to talk to. Instead I headed home happy and satiated.

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