Tête à Tête, who this month will present some 30 plus works in its third annual Opera Festival, is the sort of set-up that invites you to get in free if you turn up dressed as a nurse.
It’s not something you see at Covent Garden (although you could always try borrowing a St John’s Ambulance uniform).
Enlightened pricing (six per show and 15 for a run of three shows per night) makes it possible to sample a wide range of work. Highlights include the London premiere of The Weatherman, Opera North’s new chamber opera celebrating the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, composed by Paul Clark (The Clod Ensemble) and librettist John Binias.
The talents of siblings composer/singer/pianist Errollyn and jazz composer/trumpeter Byron Wallen explore the untold story of their extraordinary upbringing in Wallen. The festival will also see the directorial debut of ENO star mezzo Sally Burgess with Ula, a work in progress showing of a haunting new opera-thriller that makes connections between a remote Scottish Village and the film world of New York (music by Mark Glentworth and words by Carolyn Herail).
Lite Bites is a key part of the festival, the commissioning of micro operas of just 5 minutes in length that are performed in public spaces across the borough including Lyric Square, Ravenscourt Park, Bishop’s Park and Fulham Palace.
So, does the emphasis on brevity merely reflect the short attention spans of the MTV generation? With Sir Harrison Birtwistle recently moving from the full-length magnificence of last year’s The Minotaur to a short, sharp chamber opera with The Corridor, and declaring that this is the sort of work he’s now most interested in, perhaps not.
Whether The Opera Festival unearths a Birtwistle remains to be seen but the chances are it’s all going to be a lot more fun. It runs from 30 July to 16 August. Take a break from the Proms and pop along the road to Hammersmith for an evening of light-hearted experimentation and maybe a drink or two.
musicOMH reviewer Stephen Crowe has performances of his children’s opera The Singing Bone, based on Grimm Brothers tales, on 13 and 14 August. Watch out also for David Bruce’s song-cycle Piesonki on 9 August.
Full details of the programme at www.tete-a-tete.org.uk and further background information at Opera and Music Theatre Forum (www.omtf.org.uk)