Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 2023

Thursday 6th July 2023

This year’s Tête à Tête Opera Festival line-up celebrates resilience, healing and community spirit

Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 2023 sees “the mother of contemporary music theatre” (The Stage) celebrate the charity’s 25th birthday as it champions the many colourful voices of emerging and returning artists within the opera community.

Running from 27 August to 12 September 2022, the festival will highlight the resilience of the art form and its creators, navigating all walks and obstacles of life, from the struggles of a football club and community, to objectification in the opera tradition, and healing through group meditation.

Almost all of the shows will take place at The Cockpit, Marylebone, with the exception of Displaced A Woolwich Arsenal Opera, performed close to its origin at Woolwich Works.

Musing on interconnecting themes in this year’s line-up, Artistic Director Bill Bankes-Jones writes, “This year marks our sixteenth Festival and a mind-boggling twenty-five years since we opened our own first Tête à Tête production, The Flying Fox. One pleasing feature is much delving into the past to make striking discoveries that resonate strongly in the present and, indeed, propel us into a better understood future – a happy way to celebrate our longevity and determination to keep looking forward.” Read the full introduction to the 2023 Festival here.

Indeed, several of the stories in this year’s line-up use classical mythology to explore ideas of self, reconciliation and power, some to the effect of literally re-writing the narrative: 

  • The Golden Thread / Medusa, a double-bill in which two perspectives from the myth of Medusa reflect and respond to trauma.
  • Songs of Descent, which highlights psychological decline, compassion and queer experiences through Persephone’s journey to the underworld and encounters with its many monsters.
Song of the Sea, Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 2021, c. James Street

LGBTQIA+ representation is exceptionally strong  this year, with many operas in the festival featuring overt or coded narratives of the experiences of members of the community:

  • Fierce Love tells a story of love set against the devastating background of AIDS in the 90s, brought to us by stars of alternative night live Warboy/Stewart.
  • Bermondsey, 1983, a documentary opera detailing the Bermondsey by-election and homophobic smear campaign against Labour candidate Peter Tatchell.
  • Homo Promos returns with 1944: Home Fires, a follow-up to last year’s 1936: Fishing with a narrative following Ivor Novello’s imprisonment and dynamic with his gangster cellmate.
  • Performance artist and self-confessed gender-outsider Alice d’Lumiere is also back to reveal if she’s now able to hold a note in The Trans Lady Sings! following her 2021 piece, Until the Trans Lady Sings, wherein she challenged herself to learn to sing within a year whilst wrestling with gender and vocal identities.
Song Queen: A Pidgin Opera at Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 2015, c. Claire Shovelton

As ever, Tête à Tête welcomes back long-standing alumni and brings together artists from a myriad of countries and cultural identities: 

  • Leonora Gaitanou’s Judith harnesses the primordial power of ancient Greek theatre to resolve generational and feminine trauma.
  • Belgian composer Hans Vercauteren’s ARTHUR presents a loving tribute to British culture, drawing on Laurence Binyon’s “Arthur, a Tragedy'” and the old-Flemish version of the tale, “Freguut.”
Memoirs of an Amnesiac, Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 2022, c. Claire Shovelton

Tickets for live performances at The Cockpit Theatre are priced at £16.50 (Full Price) and £5.50 (Affordable).

Tête à Tête is a charity making extraordinary performances often in extraordinary places. It has produced over 100 new operas and enabled thousands of artists to create hundreds more via Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival, for which it has gratefully received funding from Arts Council England, The Cockayne Foundation and London Community Foundation and its many individual supporters.

Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival gives its artists mentorship, support, and a platform to share their latest creations with opportunities for live audience feedback. They go on to write for everywhere from the Royal Opera House to the Southbank Skatepark.