Tête à Tête's short and sweet opera treats

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The Independent Culture

There's no stopping pint-sized Tête à Tête, now launching the fourth version of its ever-expanding opera festival in Hammersmith. This was the company which pioneered the 15-minute opera form, but now all the big national companies are doing it. "My aim," says director Bill Bankes-Jones, "has always been to show that you can deliver art of the highest quality on a very small scale – and get it reviewed in the national papers." He does, and it is. In the first year, he says, "there were a lot of things where people came along with a guitar and did what they do at home. But now we have 30 real stage works, pretty much all of which I would uninhibitedly call operas."

These will include Mark Ravenhill's first libretto, Intolerance, the London premiere of Opera North's operatic dinner party The Lost Chord, and Baby O, Scottish Opera's piece for 6 to 18-month babies. Other highlights will be Errollyn Wallen's latest version of her Songbook (now accompanied by a string quartet), and a new work by that brilliant bard of the multiracial inner-city, Helen Chadwick. Julian Grant's Only Connect – featuring Sarah Palin and Nicolas Sarkozy – also sounds intriguing.

The shortest shows will be staged in tube stations, parks, and office atriums. "Tickets are £6," says Bankes-Jones, "but for £25 you can have a meal in the Riverside Bar plus a ticket for two shows, which is good value by any standards."

Tête à Tête, Riverside Studios, London W6 (www.tete-a-tete.org.uk), 5 to 22 August