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02 Jun 2020

Tête à Tête Launches a Manifesto for A Real Opera Festival In An Imaginary World

Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 2020 will, without a shadow of a doubt, take place in the realm of the imagination, and might even welcome audiences to performances in the real world as well.

In Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival’s world, it is not unusual for Shakespeare’s Macbeth to decamp with a pantomime camel, for the bones of humans to transform into violins, for penguins to play clapping games in parks or to have endless growth of the hair atop your head. If there’s one thing for sure, you can count on Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival for its unbounded imagination.

Because it’s so outrageously good at all things imaginative, the Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 2020 will go ahead by the act of imagination itself, until the possible becomes the actual and a cornucopia of new operas can be shared in real time and in a real space. This vision for a real opera festival in an imaginary world has been set out in a Manifesto on Tête à Tête’s website. The Manifesto asserts that the festival is a collaboration between artists and audience; the artists affect the audience and their audience affects their artists in real time, in a living, breathing space. You fuel their imagination just as they fuel yours.

They will not make art in isolation. All of the projects Tête à Tête artists and companies are currently working on will see the living light of day, or, perhaps, some dazzling stage lighting, or maybe even just the glorious light of the imagination. In a blog post on the Tête à Tête website, Artistic Director Bill Bankes-Jones expands on this Manifesto, saying ‘what we love about theatre is coming together, not being apart’. Until Tête à Tête can welcome you once more into a real space in real time, the festival and its artists and companies will share with you their creative processes, dreams, challenges and much else besides as they build their imaginary operas in anticipation of the eventual live performance. Tête à Tête is committed to its artists and companies, whose premieres they will eventually stage. Through this commitment, Tête à Tête will be able to extend and develop its usual mentoring for each company and group of artists, offering help where they need it, with dramaturgy, musical issues, casting, administrative and technical challenges.

As always, the Festival will create a web page for each opera premiere. This year, artists are urged to use these to open up the process of creating an opera to fellow artists and audiences. In his blog post, Bill has stated that artists will share the creative work behind their operas, including videos, sound recordings, draft libretti and scores, designs, storyboards and the literary and visual references that inspire and feed into the productions. The sharing of the developments of the operas will take a myriad of forms, both online and off. In the manifesto, Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival artists pledge to do their utmost to make sure their work will also reach those without access to the online world.

They are calling upon every ounce of their imagination to make sure the festival happens in this real world; that will hopefully be at the Cockpit Theatre this September, Cubitt Sessions this Summer, or its famous pop-up operas, scattered periodically and spatially over the next year. If, on this occasion, this vision has to be curtailed, then Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival believes that its imagined manifestations will still have a very great, very real value.

In his blog post, Bill Bankes-Jones has stressed that by having a real opera festival in an imaginary world the festival has the advantage of having a fully formed programme. This means that if the Cockpit performances have to be delayed, for example, then Tête à Tête will be able to reschedule the festival must faster than they otherwise would, and will be able to transfer the programme en bloc.

Ultimately, Tête à Tête: A Real Opera Festival in An Imaginary World is designed to display what the company is really good at; connecting with people in real time and inspiring them and nurturing its artists. The imaginary festival is a true statement of what the company really likes to be doing, rather than a programme of work comprised by circumstance that does not reflect the company’s values. Artistic Director Bill Bankes-Jones said: 'Our festival might not be able to take place in real space and time this year, but it can certainly exist in an imagined world. Since time immemorial creativity and art has drawn its inspiration from the wild space of the imagination. Come and meet us there! Many have preceded us in this; the artist Damien Hirst's exhibition of artefacts from an imagined shipwreck, the imagined poet Ossian who triggered a whole genre of Ossianic Literature, capturing imaginations in the eighteenth century before ‘online’ was even dreamed of, and director Peter Greenaway's imaginary character, Tulse Luper, with the ever-fascinating contents of his suitcases. Like these artists and writers who've gone before us, we want to share our work with you and inspire you. We collaborate with artists and share the work in one space with our audience - that is why we will never make art in isolation. Let’s meet in the space of the imagination, until we can be all together in the same physical space.’

Tête à Tête : The Opera Festival is famous (and notorious) for giving artists and companies a platform to experiment with unconventional new forms of opera. Tête à Tête is continuing to provide worldwide community-building in opera, through its YouTube channel #MyNewOpera which launched in 2018 to provide a digital collection of videos of opera.

More information on the Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival 2020 will be released soon. If you would like to be notified when tickets go on sale, please sign up to Tête à Tête’s mailing list here here .

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