Now in its sixth year, Tete a Tete’s opera fringe festival brings a typically diverse array of boundary-dissolving new pieces ranging from the novel to the experimental - this year loosely themed around myths and fairy-tales.
Making Arrangements was the first of three pieces I caught, of the six in total on opening night, based on Elizabeth Bowen’s short story. Margery (sung by Jennifer France) has left Hewson (Grant Doyle) for another man and her letter to her former husband stirs up intense feelings of loss and revenge. Charlotte Bray’s lightly and deftly scored ensemble complements her sensitive and clear vocal writing. Grant Doyle is rich-toned and dramatically compelling as the reliable, stoical Hewson, and Jennifer France is beautifully patronising of him. Alice Farnham conducts with assurance.
Reinventing Greek myths can be tricky, which Hera’s List (words and music by Eve Harrison) only seems to underline. Sam Lea is convincing as Ashdon, the destitute mortal to whom the goddess Hera despatches a series of goddesses to win his heart and cheer his spirits. If the scenario needs tightening, the text is also weak, and comic elements often fall flat (plus there’s a pretty excruciating zombie-style dance). Musically, though, Harrison presents impressive instrumental colours and dramatic pacing.
On its own terms the music (by Toby Young) for The Daisy Chain is less original, a touch more commercial-sounding, yet it’s well crafted and the production overall is strongly affective. Through the enquiries of a Therapist, we are introduced to the apparently delusional Daisy (she has married a serially abusive prince and a Creature has demanded her first-born in exchange for saving her life). Elizabeth Graham is a natural as the bookish, at first unbelieving, Therapist and Joanna Foote stands out vocally as the Creature, whose lyrical lullaby to her newly acquired baby is a highlight of the piece.