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Lite Bites, Love Songs and more

Dr Robert Fokkens' premieres and commissions for Tête à Tête Opera


South African composer Dr Robert Fokkens is a Lecturer in Composition at the School of Music, as well as Director of our Contemporary Music Group.

In recent years, Robert has premiered several commissions from Tête à Tête, a London-based opera company aiming to bring surprising, daring and intimate opera productions to the widest possible audience.

Last year saw the premiere of Love Songs, Robert’s work-in-progress for Tête à Tête’s Seedbed programme. Featuring Christopher Diffey, Sahdbh Kennedy, Keel Watson and the CHROMA Ensemble, Love Songs is a mediation on the nature of love. As a couple struggle to save their marriafge, they turn in desperation to the experts to help them make sense of the challenges of loving.

In 2010, Robert was invited to write a mini-opera for Tête à Tête’s annual opera festival at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. It was part of the Lite Bites programmes, a series of very short mini-operas performed by a group of two singers and two players in public spaces both at the Riverside Studios and in parks, shopping centres and squares around the Hammersmith area.

Robert’s dark melodrama Flights into Darkness was performed at the opening night of Tête à Tête’s 2009 Festival. A thrilling journey of one man’s descent into madness, the work was devised by Robert in collaboration with the performers Tom Frankland (actor) and Jakob Fichert (piano). The moving story told in music, words and drama brought together text from Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray with episodes from Arthur Schnitzler’s Flight into Darkness.

“The music is an integral part of the drama, and Fokkens’ score helps to develop an intertwining relationship between the actor and the pianist, making the pianist and his music a second character in the story… an intelligently conceived piece that has touches of brilliance. The work is dark, mesmerising and enormously intense, and this performance was an unforgettable experience.” (Seen and Heard)

Fokkens’ original score compliments the production perfectly, signalling the dripping blood from one imagined victim before rushing into panicked movements as Frankland’s character descends into madness… All in all, the sheer originality and guts of the piece make it well worth seeing...” (Oxford Daily Info)