TÍte ‡ TÍte Airs Programme for a Real Opera Festival in an Imaginary World

2020’s festival returns with a majestic array of operas that will both take
place in the realm of the imagination, and hopefully make it into the real
world too. Since the 2020 festival will partially take place in the space
of the imagination as outlined in Artistic Director Bill Bankes-Jones’

, it is only fitting that several operas are grounded in imaginary worlds:

The Minutes of the Hildegard von Bingen Society for Gardening
reanimates a queer, feminist gardening society founded by 12th century mystic and musician Hildegard von Bingen, an opera of playful seriousness
underpinned by extensive historical, musicological and imaginary, speculative research.

is a unique one-woman sci-fi opera set in the far future, in which Tiresias
2.0 wanders a desolate landscape and asks a flower-pot how the fate of the
earth came to be

The Trilobite. Or The Fall Of Mr Williams
, an opera played out in mid-air, gravitates around a geography teacher /
trilobite stealer who falls off a cliff

Beethoven Was A Lesbian
is a show paying homage to the American Composer Pauline Oliveros in
extravagant temporal drag, through the blending of academic lecture, piano
music, sonic meditations, poetry and the distribution of postcards. The
subsequent show, Nous, continues the homage to
Oliveros while exploring near-death experiences

One of the highlights of the festival this year, The Bridge Between Breaths, concerns visibility
and accessibility. Deaf and hearing audiences meet in the connected space
between breaths, whilst a painter responds to the sounds with brushstrokes
on canvas. This art-making explores whether live visual art can make opera
more accessible to deaf audiences. The show as a whole represents TÍte ‡
TÍte’s particular effort over recent years to welcome more disabled
artists, many of whom are collaborating with TÍte ‡ TÍte this year in less
overt ways

Other gems include Fruit Bowl, an absurdist opera which
unpeels the story of a Kiwi and a Lime as they rot together in a fruit bowl
while an evening of jazz, gin and partying swirls around them, Karakoram – A Contemporary Opera, a yeti-based opera set
amidst mountains involves a pub, a wise old monk and a monster’s pursuit,
all working to capture the fear of the unknown. Elsewhere, the comic
musical Last Party on Earth takes us to a
post-apocalyptic world, where, in the aftermath of fire, flood and virus,
two survivors happen upon a self-isolating, stockpiling Queen of Cans in a
bunker, who invites them inside for an accordion-fuelled party.

Several operas make use of the theme of time, asking us to journey through
it and see time in a new light:

The Manna Threshold
, an opera set in 2270, locates us in a future where time is abolished
while an immortal and a long-lived mortal debate their respective ways of

We Sing / I Sang
, an improvised science fiction opera, follows the Mind journeying across
the stars, revisiting past memories proffered by the audience that are so
terrible it begins to schism and crack

Elsewhere, politics are rife: Bread and Circuses presents
live wrestling, using the world of professional wrestling to unpick the
political culture which enabled the Trump presidency while Minutes to Midnight: A Nuclear Opera sees two
missileers sitting in a nuclear bunker 50-feet below ground, awaiting the
call to initiate a launch amid the 2016 US presidential election. Then, The
Agency presents an eco-noir socialist-feminist time-bending detective opera
looking at the histories of the Pinkerton Detective Agency and capitalist

Stories are sustenance, and it comes as no surprise that, this year,
several of the operas in the festival are woven from literature: Siddhartha, based on Hermann Hesse’s allegorical
novel, is a mystic, minimalistic and psychologically oriented operatic tale
which observes the title character acquiring self-knowledge; Paradise Lost presents a stripped back version of
Milton’s epic poem consisting of Lucifer / Satan’s text alone, with
countertenor Lawrence Zazzo offering such a fascinating perspective as the
antagonist that we find ourselves sympathising with the devil; Olga’s Story, based on the book by Stephanie
Williams, follows one woman’s remarkable escape to England during
revolution in Siberia and war in China, a tale elevating the importance of
family and human connection, and Song of Isis,
inspired by Christine Aziz’s poem, is a powerful reimagining of the story
of Isis, an ancient Egyptian Goddess whose heartfelt lament mourns her
murdered husband.

Elsewhere, inspired by Graham Greene’s The End of The Affair, Rain chronicles the
obsessive love affair between a sinister novelist and a married woman, set
against the background of the London Blitz and

The Buddha, The Monkey King and the Monk of the River

, adapted from one of the great classical novels of Chinese literature
combines Chinese and Western musical instruments, Chinese folk religion and
mythology to tell the story of one Buddhist who journeys West and
encounters the Monkey King.

Amongst the myriad of operas this year, a few are particularly aimed at
children. Bubbles the Zebrafish & The No. 8 Bus explores ecological
issues in a tale featuring all things sparkly and magical, ice cream, the
Pacific Ocean, a flamboyant royal dressmaker Zebrafish and storms of
plastic, while Goblin Market, based on Christina
Rossetti’s poem, is a chamber opera of high energy physical theatre
involving fruit, sisters, goblins and temptation.

TÍte ‡ TÍte has created a web page for each opera premiere, a space where
artists are encouraged to share their creative processes and thus is
already a festival of vision, whether or not it makes it to real-world
performances. In a blog post, Bill has stated that this will be a platform
where artists are free to upload videos, sound recordings, images,
interviews, draft libretti, storyboards and the various literary and visual
influences that inspire their work.

Artists will also share the developments of their operas in offline ways,
in order to reach those without access to the online world. They are
already inspiring each other with creative ways to do this using the
telephone, post, existing networks, crisis networks, outdoor socially
distanced manifestations and no doubt many more ideas to come

TÍte ‡ TÍte hopes that the operas will take place in very real venues as
planned. If, on this occasion, logistics limit this plan, then TÍte ‡ TÍte:
The Opera Festival is delighted nevertheless that artists’ imaginative
vision and the creative curiosity of audiences will still have a space to

TÍte ‡ TÍte is urging for donations to help protect its artists in this
time. With many early career/emerging artists and all forging portfolio
careers, these festival artists are among by far the most vulnerable of the
many making their lives in the arts. This year, the company is splitting
75% of any donations (plus Gift Aid income where applicable) evenly between
each festival companies to share between their artists, while allocating
the remaining 25% to giving them all a secure and safe environment to
perform in. If you are able to, please consider making a donation
to TÍte ‡ TÍte to support its artists.

TÍte ‡ TÍte 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.

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image_description=TÍte ‡ TÍte: The Opera Festival 2020
product_title=TÍte ‡ TÍte: The Opera Festival 2020
product_id=Above: Nadine Benjamin

Photo credit: Claire Shovelton