Top Ten #TATFest19 Trends

Tuesday, 10th December 2019

It’s nearly Christmas, and we’re having fun doing #TATvent and looking back over the year. And so I get to write a listicle looking at the top trends from this year’s Festival. And don’t forget – you can watch all of them for free on our website and Vimeo pages!


1. Site Specific Shows

I love going to a special location and seeing an opera that could only be done there. And this year there were three! Whether you like God Save The Tea‘s satire, The Key‘s adaptation of a spectacular novel, or Duncan House‘s look at Britain between Brexit and the first Article 50 expiration date, it was a great year for opera in unexpected places!

2. Free Public Shows

A theme that continued with all our free public shows. There was our return to Cubitt Sessions (now in Coal Drop’s Yard) with Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Errollyn Wallen and Ensemble X, and our own Madame Butterflop, and the revamped Pop Up Operas! And we were delighted to welcome an instalment of Dreams and a Heart, putting hearts into dolls.

3. Operas About Female Artists

The Festival has a proud tradition of operas about neglected female historical figures, and this year was no different. With Elizabeth Bishop in One Art, and the glorious experience of Hildegard: Visions, it was a fantastic year for righting the canon.

Person, Arm Raised

4. Pretty Conceptual/Abstract Operas About Being In Modernity

I am quite certain that if I were better at writing about opera, I’d be able to find a better phrase to describe how these all fit together. But failing that, try Of Body and Ghost‘s look at ageing, Be A Doll‘s examination of gender rolls, WEAR‘s exploration of consciousness, and Birdy‘s exploration of working class life after conflict. Maybe you’ll find a better word.

Person walking in a circle

5. Folkloric Operas

But back to another classic of Tête à Tête – folkloric operas. Whether it was classic Northumbrian folk tales in The Cruel Sister, or Welsh ones in Her Face was of Flowers, or Chinese ones in The Bridge of Magpies, or entirely new ones in Growth of the Silk, it was a delightfully broad range of folklores to sample.

Three people, white robes, dance

6. Things About An Artist’s Life

Voice(less) was a great show, and arguably fits into quite a few of these. But I’m putting it here, and it’s a fabulous look at different ways people can lose their voice (in various senses). The other ‘thing’ was OMTF’s Producer’s Forum, which was a really handy panel discussing the pragmatics of getting your opera onstage. I’d recommend it for anyone wanting to take their career to the next level.

Person, hand on throat

7. Opera About Real-Life

I was really interested in the different approaches within this general trend. While For Peace and Country used a verbatim text from a childhood video, Memories in Mind was wound around a set of filmed interviews, and Beam used classic opera to tell a story about a young woman’s life in opera.

Person leaning on piano

8. 8 – A Steampunk Opera

8 – A Steampunk Opera is a really fun show. And yes, it could be put with other operas on this list, but I wanted to put it at number 8. It’s probably the one I’d recommend for ‘opera to show your relative who says they don’t like opera, but does love musicals’ this Christmas.

Person, glasses, scar

9. Operas About Our World

Loads of operas on this list could fit here. But it seems worth mentioning Apollo’s Mission (a cabaret opera satirising Trump via Greek-ish mythology for the anniversary of Apollo 11) and Synthetica… A Toxic Enchantment (looking at the history of plastic) in particular, Both of them took a very different approach to looking at some of the big issues of our times.

Person, White Dress, Arms Raised

10. Operas About Opera

Whether Madame Butterflop, Beam, or quite a few others on the list, opera makers do like to write about opera. But the last opera I haven’t mentioned is one I wrote, so if you want a laugh, may I mention my own sketch comedy opera, with love, death, Macbeth, and everything else you want in The Perfect Opera (with a really important message for all opera-makers at the end)!

Two people, camel

So, that’s my list – what’s on yours? Merry #TATvent!