Tuesday 21 August 2007

Tete a Tete opera festival

Last Friday (17th August) we went off to the Tete a Tete opera festival at the Riverside Studios. There were three events that evening. To start with a workshop on the opera La Cantatrice Chauve by Jean Philippe Calvin, based on the play by Ionesco. I must confess to being unfamiliar with the play (a severe gap in my education). In the workshop we got potted highlights of the opera, accompanied by piano, percussions (the composer) and live electronics (Stefan Tiedje). We heard the conclusion twice, once with and once without electronics. The electronics repeat, echo and distort the voices of the singers providing an eerie chorus of comment which adds to the distortion in communication which is part of the play. The singers (Alison Bell, Jeremy Williams, Rachel Nichols and Daniel Norman) were admirable and I look forward to hearing the full opera. I gather that the workshop is part of a process of working towards a production to tour in the autumn.

The main event of the evening was less of an opera than an art installation. The visual s were presented by ArtProjx and curated by Clare Fitzpatrick. The composer and sound designer Ian Dearden provided a sound installation against which soprano Linda Hirst improvised, at times it was difficult to tell what was live and what not. The underlying music was based on Monteverdi, but mostly this was quite deeply hidden. Though presented on stage, it was not dramatic in the conventional sense and relied heavily on the interaction between sounds and the projected visuals. The results were, for me, rather mixed; though I'll never be able to see the famous scene from Brief Encounter without thinking of the evening's take on it.

Finally, we were treated to 'cabaret' by the duo Hereby a Scorecard; Matt Rogers and Chris Mayo use lo-fi electronic components (no computer, just lots of off the shelf bits and lots of wires) to create a remarkable sound world. A CD is in the offing I gather.

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