Tete a Tete: The Opera Festival

Tete a Tete: The Opera Festival is a fixture of London’s summer music season, but something we should never take for granted. Suppose Tete-a-Tete's director Bill Bankes-Jones were to sail away on his surfboard - who else would have the optimism and artistic generosity to stage forty new operas in three weeks, most of them by composers who aren’t famous (yet)?

Particularly notable is that Bill extends a completely open stage to the productions – there’s none of the intentional vacillating that bigger companies perform when ‘gatekeeping’ the entry of new composers into the art of opera. New works at Tete-a-Tete may be in development, unfinished, utterly insane – and all the better for it. I should make it clear though that the first piece I saw this year, James Garner’s East o’ the Sun,West o' the Moon was utterly accomplished in all respects. The composer (still studying at the Guildhall School) is already writing his next opera for English Touring Opera.

Tete a Tete’s festival moved this year from Riverside Studios in Hammersmith to Central St Martins College, now situated in a gigantic converted warehouse north of King’s Cross Station where London’s wheat (for bread making) was stored in Victorian times. Huge foyer spaces [pictured] abound. The (art and design) college houses two theatres, the larger one equipped with a fly tower, orchestra pit and sprung floor. Can London’s public space get any more swanky? They should have kept a hectare of this vast area unconverted to show foreign visitors what it used to be like around here.

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer