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Festival Blog

Competition for the elite role of Lite Bite musical director is fierce.

conductor in training

…and just keeps getting fiercer.

conductor in training 2

Thatcher is still the star of the show:

thatcher being played with

 August 16, 2013

Back again! Last night was quite strangely wonderful, in a number of different ways. The Ant and the Grasshopper opened my evening, with beautiful, lyricaL music from Brian Hosefros unquestionably the star of the show, alongside a great cast putting in powerful and full-blooded performances. Another piece packed with potential that I’d love to see developed into a fuller staging, and possibly a longer, more elaborate work.

I have no words to describe the bizarre whacko weirdness that is Zaum: Beyond Mind. You’ll simply have to come and see for yourself.

With luck I’ll squeeze into The Crocodile tonight, especially since the opening night got a 4-star write up from the Standard here.

Best backstage pic from yesterday – the Captain disciplining a naughty crew member.

festival spank

And Lite Bites in Lyric Square from this afternoon:

lite bite lyric

 August 15, 2013

Week 3 is here already! Can you believe it? What a wild two weeks it’s been. Last Sunday finished off week 2 in wonderful style, with Tom Floyd’s MICROmegas and Paul Evernden’s Guilt. MICROmegas was a joy of a work in progress, as we saw the opening scenes of a sci-fi satiric opera based on Voltaire. I would dearly love to see the work completed, as Tom Floyd’s music joyfully flowed with that rarest quality of contemporary opera – genuine lyricism. The whole cast and orchestra put in wholeheartedly outstanding performances; the end result was beautiful, moving, thoughtful, and above all very funny.

Guilt was very different: two violins sparked and spat in desperate anger from opposite ends of the stage as tableaux from the lives of Hildegard of Bingen and Jutta von Sponheim were played out, to the additional accompaniment of an allusive background film. Flagellation, self-flagellation, hurt, pain, lust, and visions – all played into a powerful dramatic experience. In a very different way to almost everything else at the Festival, it was very remarkable.

And so on to tonight! We open with Silent Opera’s Lament, and then our Russian theme begins with the Russian-language The Ant and the Grasshopper, moves on with the futuristic Zaum: Beyond Mind, and ends with The Crocodile – oh snap! – but I’m not sure I’ll be able to see the Croc in action, since he’s sold all his tickets, and I do mean all of them. Oh well!

More from me later, but meanwhile here are some shots from various Lite Bites. The first is from our performance atop the Viewing Platform at King’s Cross on Tuesday, with King’s Place looming in the background:


Thatcher had a run-in with a local dog earlier today…

thatcher and dog

 August 10, 2013

Another night, another brilliant couple of shows. The Secretary Turned CEO started our night, and it was a cracker. Becca Marriott’s libretto sparkled brilliantly, the audience laughed uproariously, and Pergolesi’s evergreen music shone through in a clever and witty arrangement. All the cast put in wonderful acting performances as well as classy singing. It’s a joy of a show guaranteed to leave you in stitches. Don’t miss it tomorrow if you didn’t come today, it’s too good not to see.

State of Being was quite a different kettle of fish, heavy and dense electronic music accompanied by a variety of live percussion and four singers intensely miked up. The sound-world was ethereal, otherworldly, powerful (almost overpowering), full of reverb. In a way it’s a very Zen experience, but despite the length (over an hour) and the quite repetitive (yet never monotonous) music the show does not drag or become sedentary, and has a trick of suddenly jerking you out of an easy mental flow. It is something undeniably other that absolutely pushed the boundaries of the word “opera”.

Tomorrow I’ll be in our other weekend shows, One or the Other, MICROmegas, and Guilt, so will review them then. No goofy front of house pics, unfortunately, but I will try to get round to finally uploading our post-show interview videos.

Here’s yesterday’s audience wandering off to their doom…I mean the secret location of The Garden. Is that opera in a council estate?

garden audience

 August 9, 2013

And we are almost half-way through already! Sorry for not updating earlier, it’s been crazy busy. Week 2 is well underway and Fossils and Monsters, Vivienne, Viagron, Kettlehead, and The Garden are just about to have their second nights. The first night was a cracker, with packed out houses and a terrific buzz. Vivienne and Fossils and Monsters have already got a great review courtesy of The Evening Standard . Robert Hugill has another terrific review of these two works plus The Garden here. Lite Bites have been out and about and I’ve just got back from Lyric Square where we’ve done a couple of great performances in the glorious sunshine.

And we have more gloriously goofy front of house and backstage pics:


Apparently someone decided I was talking too much.

mouth taped

And magnificent air crew outfits got these fine people free admission:

free admin air crew

 August 3, 2013

The weekend is half-done and Two Clowns opened it in hilarious fashion. I split my sides laughing; it’s truly marvellous comedy – funny yet oddly touching in the way that all the best comedy is. Please, for your own sake, don’t miss out; it’s a real treat, such a gem. That Oliver Curry, what a star talent – even after losing his voice 30 years ago and being reduced to speaking through a synthesizer.

I also got to see Mme Butterfly: The One Man Opera, which is quite aptly named since as wonderful as Michael Finnissy’s music is, the whole concept rests squarely on the back of Ignacio Jarquin’s remarkable acting talents, when it would sink into farce into the hands of a lesser performer. But Ignacio has tremendous presence and authority, and the result is moving and often beautiful work.

Both shows are repeated on Sunday, so please do come along. I can assure you they are more than worth the trip. I didn’t get to see Black Sand, but everyone coming out of it was delighted (if a little spooked).

As for me? Well, tomorrow I’ll be in Indigestion, enjoying my first proper meal in days. Hopefully I’ll see lots of you there – please do come say hello.

And just to keep you happy til then, here are some more goofy front of house pics.

Tom and Amanda, in full flight outfits;

tom and amanda

The departure board, helpfully sending the passengers to the right boarding gates at the right times for their magic journeys.

departure board

 August 3, 2013

Here’s a nice review of and the Crowd (wept) courtesy of George Hall at The Guardian.

Best photo of the afternoon is unquestionably Bill’s new swimming trunks. I think he’s preparing for Dart’s Love, but not entirely sure.

bill in pants

 August 3, 2013

First two days are in the bank, and the press coverage is starting to roll in. Rupert Christiansen at The Telegraph gave and the Crowd (wept) a lovely review here, and gave Gala a fine write-up, along with and the Crowd (wept) and La Belle de la Bête .

We also have a whole flood of wonderful production shots from wonderful photographer Claire Shovelton’s flickr to whet your appetite, as well as my personal favourite – Lore Lixenberg and myself, just before our Thursday night performance of The End of Civilisation.

andrew and lore

Last night had many remarkable moments; the wonderful video interviews I made with happy audiences coming out of the shows (to be uploaded later), seeing The End of Civilisation from the more usual perspective, but perhaps the most incredible was finding out that the lady who jokily mentioned that she was Jade Goody’s mother on the way into and the Crowd (wept)…actually was. By all accounts she very much enjoyed herself.

 August 1, 2013

First night is over, and what a night.

I should introduce myself. I’m Andrew, marketing director for this year’s Festival, and I’ll be blogging the Festival live over the next three weeks, with reviews, previews, video interviews, and all the photos I can get my hands on. I’m also working Front of House, so if you’re coming to the Festival, look out for the youthful blond chap with the silly pilot’s hat on selling you programmes, giving you feedback forms, and generally making sure that everyone who comes to the Festival has a wonderful time.

Tonight I got to see Gala, with Bill Bankes-Jones’s always marvellous direction, great singing from all the cast, and superb puppetry from Darren, Teele, and Isobel. Gala’s full of laughs and just a touch of sadness; tonight is its final performance, so don’t miss out.

Then due to a bizarre series of events I wound up sitting opposite Lore Lixenberg in The End of Civilization As We Know it, making my theatrical debut with no script – entirely ad lib – and with about 15 minutes notice. Lore and I ate cake, drank wine…too much wine…and discussed God, suicide, death, reincarnation, and opera as the world ended, Venice flooded around us, and the audience, sitting in the studio, watched us on the video screens. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, something I will treasure forever.

That’s the magic of Tête à Tête. Anything can happen, and if you come down to the Festival you’ll find out that just about anything probably will.

I’ll put some more photos of this craziness up tomorrow, but in the meantime here are some pics from earlier. Anna (administrative director) and Tom (Front of House boss) professionally sorting out the rehearsal schedule…really…

anna and tom

Here we have Anna (production assistant) at the Front of House table…

anna front of house

And lastly, Bill’s new pants of doom. Dat colour.

bill pants

 July 30, 2013

Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival has just two days to go until take-off. Excitement is soaring, the final touches are being applied in rehearsals, and for our first-class passengers only we have an exclusive preview of some week 1 highlights.

The Festival opens with Tête à Tête’s own Gala, an erotic and exuberant portrayal of Gala Dali’s obsession with the young Jeff Fenholt. Lore Lixenberg’s The End of Civilization, set at the end of the world, subverts the traditional relationship between performer and audience. La Belle de la Bête brings the sights and sounds of Barbados to London, and fortunately it seems to have brought the weather also.

Opening the first weekend, famous operatic tenor Oliver Curry makes his London debut in Piebald Productions’ Two Clowns. Tragically, Oliver has been mute for many years, so he will communicate to the audience with the help of his wife, soprano Mario Bovino, and a 1983 Dec Talk DTC 01 Speech Synthesizer. Indigestion allows you to consume both a three course meal, as well as a revolutionary operatic experience. And last but not least, Streetwise Opera bring their poignant exploration of homelessness and humanity, The Answer to Everything, to the Riverside cinema, blurring the boundaries between opera and film.

This is, naturally, just a small taster of the Festival’s first week – our Lite Bites will be taking place all over Hammersmith, and from horror opera to Jade Goody opera, there is far more happening that I have space to talk about here. The magic of the Festival defies explanation – you will have to come see for yourself.