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The Opera Revolution Starts Here

Founded in 1997 by director Bill Bankes-Jones, conductor Orlando Jopling and administrator Katie Price, Tête à Tête has established itself as the home of new opera.

 

Since its inception, the company has drawn on the skills of 10,000 singers, conductors, instrumentalists, sound engineers, lighting specialists, costume designers, videographers and producers to create over 500 new productions. In the process, we’ve become the ‘go to’ platform for opera talent.

 


 

Reaching for the corners

 

The first decade of the Tête à Tête era saw the team take its productions all over the UK, collaborating with the likes of Battersea Arts Centre, ENO studio, Streetwise Opera, Opera Genesis and a host of composers and producers to produce eight experimental productions. Consequently, the team fostered successful relationships with some of the standout alternative opera venues in the country, from the Bridewell Theatre, The Purcell Room and the world premiere staging of Benjamin Britten’s Canticles in Westminster Abbey, to a derelict Alexandra Palace, the Norwegian city of Sandnes and Fair Isle in Shetland. The 2006 collaboration with the spinners and knitters of the Shetland Islands for Odysseus Unwound was the first ever opera production to be performed on the isle, and was consequently featured on BBC 2’s The Culture Show.

 

Celebrating individuality

 

Right from the start, the first seeds were sown for the company’s pursuit of a truly inclusive art form.  After the joyous Flying Fox, an intoxicatingly immersive Fledermaus, Shorts saw the company venturing into commissioning new work from six composers and librettists of varying ages, cultural backgrounds and genders to stage the first of many world premières. After many sold out performances and a national tour of both this and its sequel, Six-Pack,  a new approach to the process of creating opera saw over 400 members of the public contribute aural and written feedback on the first draft of Family Matters at Battersea Arts Centre, before a run at the Bridewell Theatre and a national tour ranging from major venues to a sixth form college.

 

Over the following years, it was apparent that many individual artists and groups were exploring how to use words, music, staging and the human voice to energise, entrance, entertain and engage with the public. Tête à Tête saw that mentoring for these artists and their work was extremely scarce, and recognised that there was an urgent need for a supportive low-risk platform in which artists and companies could promote and development their talent simultaneously. This led to the birth of Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival.

 

A festival for the forerunners

 

Built upon a responsibility to share our experience, infrastructure and access to resources to unlock opportunities for a new generation of opera creators and audiences, the inaugural Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival launched in 2007 to huge acclaim. In 10 years, over 40,000 people have enjoyed over 1000 performances, involving the world premieres of over 400 new works. That same year, the festival branched out to include performances in public spaces, and saw successful pop-up operas in shopping centres, markets, pubs and parks, a feature that is now incorporated into our festivals year on year.

 

 

Alongside all this activity, Tête à Tête has remained at heart a producing company, most notably scoring a British Composer Award for Kerry Andrew’s Dart’s Love in 2013, uniting Royal College of Music Composers in our 2012 and 2014 collaborations Great Expectations and Hogarth’s Stages.  Our 2014 world première of Samuel Bordoli’s Grind was performed at the Southbank Centre, London, Transition Extreme, Aberdeen and at Unit23 Skate Park, Dumbarton as part of the Glasgow UNESCO Commonwealth Games; the production was shortlisted for 2015 British Composer Awards in the Community and Education category and released afterwards on NMC Records.

 

In May 2016, Tête à Tête reprised its partnership with the Royal College of Music to produce Crime & Punishment, a night of 6 mini-operas, which was performed to a sold-out audience over two nights at the Britten Theatre, and worldwide in the company’s first live stream, reaching over 3,500 people across the globe.”

 

Tête à Tête was awarded the 2016 UK Arts On Line Award for our online archive of 400+ videos of every performance we’ve hosted since 2008.  This is the largest online video resource for new opera on the internet, reaching audiences in 155 Countries, from Azerbaijan to Uruguay, from Indonesia to Iceland! You can view our video archive here.  2017 is the 20th year since the foundation of Tête à Tête, and amongst other celebrations, we are looking to expand this archive to a worldwide resource, mynewopera.com – watch this space!

Bill Bankes-Jones - 1

Artistic Director

 

Bill Bankes-Jones

 

Summarise your role in 20 words

 

Founder and driver of the company, dreaming up what we do together with our great team… and then doing it!

 

What has been your favourite moment as part of the Tête à Tête team?

 

Particularly special are those moments when a project gets real ignition between audience and artists, It’s what we always aim for and great that we can so often hit that.

 

What’s your favourite Tête à Tête production?

 

Flying Fox, Shorts, Six-Pack, The Canticles with Streetwise Opera, Nine Festivals, Salad Days, Pop up Operas always, Dart’s Love, Icarus, Daughters of the Elements, The Last Seed and many many more, too many to choose from!

2

Music Director

 

Timothy Burke

 

Summarise your role in 20 words

 

Developing, rehearsing and conducting the new operas we commission; helping Bill with Festival curation. Bringing new music to life.

 

What has been your favourite moment as part of the Tête à Tête team?

 

I think my favourite ever moment was the day we made Dart’s Love in 2013, the first piece I conducted for Tête à Tête. I met the instrumentalists from CHROMA for the first time that morning – I’d been so nervous that I wouldn’t get to work with them before the day of the performance – and then they played it as if they’d been playing it all their lives. The whole Tête à Tête team were buzzing about the theatre doing everything at once, achieving what a national opera company would take 10 days to do in 1 day. Incredible.

 

What’s your favourite Tête à Tête production?

 

If I had to pick one, it’d be The Last Seed by Na’ama Zisser. I think it is like absolutely nothing else I’ve ever heard. The way 5 unusual male voices, all clustered around alto & tenor ranges, blend and intertwine, sharing out the words in a sentence, all wreathed around by the sounds and textures of CHROMA – it was a very special piece to create.

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Administrative Director

 

Anna Gregg

 

Summarise your role in 20 words

 

The seat belt, mirror, indicator, manoeuvre… with many tire changes, petrol re-fuels, new brakes and buckets of acceleration. *Polish depending

 

What has been your favourite moment as part of the Tête à Tête team?

 

The whole ride, but the best bit is  talking to our artists about how we can make their time with us the best it can be. Mind you I do love rushing to the loos post performance to listen in on what audiences really thought about a show.

 

What’s your favourite Tête à Tête production?

 

Push!,  Amerika, The Last Seed, Salad Days, My Mother My Daughter, The Cumnor Affair but also  pretty much everything in every festival for its sheer ambition.

Our People

Chairman

David Leeming

 

Trustees

Katie Price

Kenneth Richardson

Mindy Kilby

Nick Sutcliffe

Vera Chok

Julian Wright

 

Management Team

 

Artistic Director Bill Bankes-Jones

Music Director Timothy Burke

Administrative Director Anna Gregg

Technical Director David Salter

Casting Consultant Sarah Playfair

Associate Ensemble CHROMA

 

Marketing

James Fleury / Nouvague

Andrew McNair / B2Me

 

Press

Wildkat PR

 

 

Tête à Tête History

 

1998

The Flying Fox

 

1999

Shorts

 

2000

Orlando Plays Mad

 

2001

Shorts

 

2002

Six-Pack (co-production English National Opera)

Britten’s Canticles (co-production Streetwise Opera)

 

2003

Family Matters (work in progress)

 

2004

Family Matters

 

2005

Shetland Odyssey

 

2006

Odysseus Unwound

Push

 

2007

Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 1

Blind Date

 

2008

Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 2

The Cumnor Affair

 

2009

Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 3

Salad Days 1

 

2010

Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 4

Salad Days 2

 

2011

Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 5

 

2012

Circus Tricks

Great Expectations (in association with the Royal College of Music)

Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 6

Salad Days 3

 

2013

Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 7

 

2014

Hogarth’s Stages (in association with the Royal College of Music)

Grind

Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 8

 

2015

Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 9

 

2016

Crime & Punishment (in association with the Royal College of Music)

Cubitt Sessions, Kings Cross 1