The Fisherman and his Wife


Saturday, 8 August at 2.30pm and Sunday, 9 August at 12pm.

Kings Place: St Pancras Room, 90 York Way, London, N1 9AG

Music: Eralys Fernandez

Words and Puppets: Alexander Winfield

Voices: Maya Sapone

The Fisherman and his Wife is a new comic puppet opera for children. The Fisherman is struggling to put food on the table and his life is further complicated by his cruel wife. When he finds a talking fish that can grant wishes, the Fisherman’s life changes very quickly ... but is all what it seems?

Duration: 50 min. Family friendly performance suitable for children of all ages.

Review: Life Lessons at Tête à Tête: The Fisherman and his Wife

By Charlotte Valori, 11 August 2015

The Fisherman and his Wife is a nicely conceived opera for children. It’s blusteringly comic, a surreal folktale plot with a zany edge which references modern culture (the desire for free broadband) alongside timeless fairytale tropes (a talking fish who can grant wishes). It has a straightforward moral (greed can’t bring happiness) which is explored carefully through a clearly-structured plot. It’s eminently portable and simple to stage: everything happens on a trestle table with three puppets and some childishly painted cardboard scenery, and all you need to create it is an upright piano and three performers, pianist, soprano and puppeteer. Best of all, it’s fast paced, and not too long; indeed, one keen lad, who looked under ten, questioned afterwards by his father, opined in my hearing that it was “Not long enough”. [Was he the same young boy I spotted sitting transfixed in the Royal Opera House Stalls throughout Tristan und Isolde in December?]

The Fisherman, a dreamy soul, lives in a tiny hut with a wife who harries him daily, threatening to leave him for the nearest rock (quite literally) if he can’t provide better for her. In desperation, he goes out to sea and catches a talking fish, who begs for his life, winning the Fisherman’s pity. In return, the fish grants the Fisherman’s wish for a better house and plenty of food, but the Wife’s satisfaction with this new arrangement lasts less than a day: once she has a house, she wants a better house with plenty of shoes and sushi; then a castle with servants; then to be president and CEO of a phone company so that she can have free broadband; and finally, to be master of the universe so that she can stop the rain. None of these bring happiness, and the last request sends them straight back to their old, dilapidated hut, the fish explaining regretfully that “there is already someone in charge of the universe”. Eventually, the Fisherman realises that his Wife will never be happy, whatever she is given; that happiness comes from within; and, instead of fruitlessly wishing for useless wealth where “every happy moment is a hard sell,” he will find his own happiness without magic.

Eralys Fernandez’s score confidently paints a range of moods and emotions in a cheerful piano accompaniment played for us by the composer, encompassing rowdy exchanges verging on Punch & Judy, little lyrical arias (the Fisherman’s “Almighty God of the Sea” a particular highlight), and dynamic comic passages. Our three characters are brilliantly voiced and characterised by Maya Sapone, singing both Fisherman and Wife with gusto and scrupulous distinction, and puppeteer Alex Winfield as the magic fish (whose name is Harold, though he’s quite private about it). Alex Winfield’s words veer oddly towards American patois, using “neat” and “candy”, and his eclectic references feel like a bucketful of cultural flotsam and jetsam. But it swirls along in a pleasingly nonsensical manner: the various children on the front row were all absorbed throughout.

Venue: Kings Place, St Pancras Room
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The Doll Behind The Curtain by Amir Mahyar Tafreshipour and Dominic Power

Premiered at the Tête à Tête Opera Festival 2015

Thursday 6 & Friday 7 August, 2015 at 19.50

Kings Place Hall One
90 York Way, London, N1 9AG

Music: Amir Mahyar Tafreshipour

Words: Dominic Power

Conductor: Darragh Morgan

Director: Maya Sapone

The Doll Behind the Curtain
 is the first Iranian opera with an English libretto. A haunting story of an Iranian student’s all-consuming obsession with a beautiful shop mannequin, it explores the dissonance, both musical and cultural, between East and West and tradition and modernity. An innovative, psychological work of musical theatre.

Creative Team

Music: Amir Mahyar Tafreshipour

Libretto: Dominic Power

Conductor: Darragh Morgan

Director: Maya Sapone
Stage Designer: Elina Pieridou

Artistic Consultant: Andrew Hilton


Mehrdad - Thys Bowden, tenor

Bita - Maya Sapone, soprano

Maître - Robert Gildon, baritone

Tombeau - Steven East, bass

Mother - Melanie Lodge, mezzo-soprano

Father - Thomas Humphreys, baritone

Giselle - Lily Scott, soprano

Doll - Jessica Hill, dancer

The setting is Le Havre and Tehran during the 1930s. Mehrdad, a shy, introverted young Iranian, has completed his studies at a Lycée in Le Havre. In the days before his return to Iran, he discovers a beautiful mannequin in a junk shop. For the timid Mehrdad this alabaster doll becomes an object of obsessive desire. He buys it from the shop’s sinister owner, Tombeau, believing that he has found a beauty that is flawless and unchanging – a passive object of adoration with which to share his secret life. Returning to the family home in Tehran, alienated from his parents and his adoring fiancée, Bita, Mehrdad shuts himself away in his room with the doll. But the inanimate mannequin is no longer the passive recipient of Mehrdad’s adoration, but a demanding mistress. Bita secretly visits Mehrdad’s room to confront her rival. There she hatches a desperate plan to recapture Mehrdad’s love.

The opera The Doll Behind the Curtain is based on the short story of the same name by the revered Iranian writer Sadeq Hedayat (1903-1951). Hedayat was Iran’s first Modernist writer. Though there are echoes of Edgar Allan Poe and Franz Kafka in his profound and unsettling fiction, his vision and his voice are unique in literature. The Doll Behind the Curtain is a modern masterpiece exploring loneliness, the mysteries of human sexuality and the clash of cultures. Amir Mahyar Tafreshipour’s opera, premièred here this week, is the first Iranian opera ever to be performed in England. Tafreshipour has created an original and challenging work of musical theatre, drawing from the culture of his native Iran, while exploring themes that are universal. The Doll behind the Curtain probes the troubled psyche of an individual caught between tradition and modernity, between duty and desire.

Review: Fearful fantasies: The Doll Behind the Curtain at Tête à Tête *****

By Charlotte Valori, 10 August 2015

The Doll Behind the Curtain is the first Iranian opera to be performed in England. Although Amir Mahyar Tafreshipour’s music doesn’t sound overtly Iranian, remaining robustly contemporary with pronounced dissonance, angularity, sudden trills and plenty of pizzicato, it deals interestingly with the conflicted destinies of a modern Iranian generation, hopelessly attempting to reconcile a traditional upbringing with the possibilities of modern life. Originally a short story by Sadeq Hedayat, the plot references Pygmalion’s myth, though our hero Mehrdad (a well acted, but vocally hesitant Rhys Bowden) does not create his perfect statue, but buys her in Le Havre from the mysterious Tombeau (rich bass Steven East) and his sulky daughter Giselle (a playful Lily Scott): Mehrdad’s idol is a shop mannequin, played with eerie stillness by dancer Jessica Hill. Descending into alcoholism, Mehrdad sits alone in his flat in Tehran playing Russian roulette to the horror of his glamourous mother (Melanie Lodge), wry father (warm-toned Thomas Humphreys) and fiancée Bita, Maya Sapone, who also directs. Dominic Power’s words don’t always come across clearly, and it’s a tough listen, but The Doll Behind the Curtain throws up interesting questions of desire and cultural crisis before finishing with a gunshot-sharp shock. 

Venue: Kings Place, Hall One
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TangOpera: Essential Latin American Art Songs

 is a chamber ensemble showcasing the exuberant hidden world of Latin art song, featuring the dynamic voice of Maya Sapone. Songs To Die For presents their definitive guide to Latin America’s greatest classical melodies.

Next Performance:
TangOpera: 'Songs To Die For'
Thursday 21 February 2013, 7.30pm
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden, London, NW1 7NL

Tickets: £11/9 online, £12/10 door (Doors open at 7pm)

In Latin American art song, lied and opera transcend traditional barriers between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art to meet the irresistible, vibrant rhythms of Latin jazz, folk and popular music. Featuring the unique voice of soprano, Maya Sapone, specialist Iberican pianist, Helen Glaisher-Hernández, and Cuban guitarist, Ahmed Dickinson, tangOpera’s latest project, Songs To Die For, offers a glimspe into Latin America’s most passionate classical melodies. Absorbing wide-ranging influences from tango, samba, salsa and bossa nova, the dynamic voice of Maya Saponedelivers renditions of unrivalled versatility and authenticity.

Current Artists:


Maya Sapone

A versatile artist with exceptional vocal flexibility and improvisational skills, opera singer Maya Sapone performs both in the UK and internationally. Born in the Gabonese jungle of West Africa to a Thai mother and Italian father, Maya was raised in a multicultural environment and lived in several countries in Africa, in the US and in Italy. Creative associate and permanent member of award-winning company, Elastic Theatre, Maya’s area of activity ranges from opera to musicals, from classical to contemporary, improvisation and experimental theatre, world music and music for film and television. Maya recently appeared to great critical acclaim in the role of Lady Thiang in the No. 1 UK tour of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, The King and I, directed by Paul Kerryson. At present Maya is playing the role of The Teacher in Elastic Theatre’s first multi-media project, Julius, which will be presented at the Spitalfields Festival in June 2013.

Helen Glaisher-Hernández is a concert pianist, musicologist, pedagogue and curator who combines her two great loves – music and hispanicity – as a specialist in Iberican repertoire. She read Spanish and French at the University of Cambridge, spending her year abroad studying piano at the National Superior Conservatoire in Buenos Aires, before pursuing an MPhil in European Literature and an MMus in Piano at Trinity College of Music in London with Venezuelan pianist Elena Riu. She has premiered numerous pieces by Latin composers such as Camargo Guarnieri and Carreño, and works tirelessly to promote awareness of classical Latin music as Chairwoman of ILAMS. She has received masterclasses from renowned artists such as Yonty Solomon and Frank Fernández and has collaborated with leading artists and ensembles such as the Coro Cervantes, Dominic Miller, Bárbara Llanes, Morgan Szymanski, Ricardo Lorenz and Omar Puente. She has performed across the UK’s major venues including the Barbican, Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room, Fairfield Halls, St James’s Piccadilly, St John’s Smith Square and St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Ahmed Dickinson Cárdenas is one of the finest young performers of the Cuban classical guitar school. Born in Havana, Dickinson Cárdenas graduated from the Superior Institute of Art (ISA Havana) in guitar. He has participated in masterclasses with Leo Brouwer, John Williams, Costas Cotsiolis, Shi Ichi Fukuda and Eduardo Martin. Dickinson Cardenas had the privilege of working closely with the late Cuban guitar-composer, Jose Antonio (Ñico) Rojas. He single-handedly transcribed, learned and performed most of the old master’s unpublished works. Since his arrival in London in 2005 Dickinson Cardenas has been the recipient of numerous awards including Cubadisco 2009, Ashley Stewart Arts Sponsorship 2011, Concordia Foundation 2008-2009 and Ivor Mairants 2006. In the UK Dickinson Cardenas has performed at prestigious venues such as Wigmore Hall, The Sage Gateshead, Union Chapel, Queen Elizabeth Hall, St Martin-in-the-Fields, LSO St Luke’s and St James’ Piccadilly. He has given live performances on BBC Radio 3 and BBC London. He is both a Live Music Now and Concordia Foundation artist.

Diego Carneiro de Oliveira - cello

Oli Savill - percussions

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JULIUS. A new multi-media work by Elastic Theatre. 24 August - 29 September 2012.
Elastic Theatre, directed by Jacek Ludwig Scarso and winner of the 2012 Fringe Theatre Report Award for Best Theatre Company, presents it's first multi-media work: a coming of age story of intrusive thoughts and compulsive rituals. Supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation and by the Wellcome Trust, this is the first instalment of a project investigating the triggers of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, imaginatively depicted through film in a fusion of physical performance and contemporary opera. Created in collaboration with film production company Savage Mills to a new score by Ivan Hussey of Celloman, this exhibition is accompanied by a range of Events curated by Elastic Theatre and GV Art.

Highlight Events (free, booking essential)
Roundtable: Representing OCD - Mon 3 Sep, 6.30pm.
Practical Workshop: Voice/Art Experiments - Thurs 6 Sept, 6.30pm.
Live Event: Meet the Company - Thurs 13 Sept, 6.30pm.

Bookings: 020 8408 9800

Supported by The Wellcome Trust, Jerwood Charitable Foundation, GV Art.

Date: 24/08/2012
Venue: GV Art, 49 Chiltern Street, London W1U 6LY.
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Elastic Theatre BEST THEATRE COMPANY 2012

Elastic Theatre announced as the Winner of the FRINGE REPORT AWARD 2012 for BEST THEATRE COMPANY in London!

Venue: The Leicester Square Theatre, 6 Leicester Place, London WC2H 7BX .
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CAVENDISH MUSIC: ACTION/THRILLER 4 New Film Trailer Album Out now!

The Largest Independent Production Music Publisher

Duration: 223 minutes
Releasedate: 2011-09-02
Composers: Jochen Flach, Lorenzo Piggici
Vocalist: Maya Sapone, soprano
(Vocals in "Dystopia"; "Homeland"; "Spiral Radius" and "Gaia Planet")

Venue: Imagem Production Music, Aldwych House, London WC2B
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JULY 2011
WHO ARIA? RIVERSIDE’S ZANY OPERA FEST IS HERE. Hammersmith singer Maya Sapone trades the West End for two nights of letting loose at Riverside Studios during August’s mad laboratory of opera.
Like your opera a bit unhinged? If so, the return of the outrageous Tête à Tête opera festival to Riverside Studios should be music to your ears. For just £6, the Hammersmith venue offers a glimpse into the bold new frontier of contempo rary opera as it hosts more than 70 performances from August 4 to 21. From ‘silent opera’ daredevil Ergo Phizmiz to the Glyndebourne Youth Opera, some of the world’s most legendary – and most notorious – singers, composers, librettists, acrobats, video artists and set designers will grace Riverside’s stages for the fifth year running. Living in Hammersmith Road, soprano Maya Sapone is already a veteran of the Tête à Tête madness as she marks her third festival appearance in the chamber opera, The Moonflower, on August 18 and 19. The 34-year-old singer, born in West Africa’s Gabon to a Thai mother and an Italian father, plays Lua (Portuguese for ‘moon’) as the English botanist and explorer Margaret Mee and Brazilian rubber tapper and environmentalist Chico Mendes meet in the after life to ensure the delicate moonflower is saved from extinction. Maya’s charac ter Lua is both ‘sensual’ and a bit of a ‘lunatic’, Maya said. “I play a creature not of this land which guards the moonflower. It sym bolises the cycles of life and eventually drives Lua mad.” The Trinity College of Music-trained singer, who has also performed with madcap singer Damo Suzuki (formerly of psychedelic Krautrock band Can), says her part was written especially for her after composer Mario Ferraro spotted her singing music by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos – and as sumed she was South American. “And I think he’s done well,” Maya said. “Even though the score is very contemporary, you can hear elements of Brazilian music in it. It is quite challeng ing to sing – and even to watch at times. But there’s an acrobat! And the music, the visuals and the story are all very powerful.” When Maya is finished exploring the outer reaches of the operatic world, she heads off on a six-month tour as part of the cast of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The King and I. But I get the feeling it’s the freedom of the festival she rel ishes. “This is your chance to see opera from a different perspec tive. The festival attracts a wide range of people who all want to see unknown composers or smaller companies present their work – whatever it is!,” she said. Another highlight of the unlikely festival is the appearance of Richard Thomas. Fresh from his Royal Opera House smash hit Anna Nicole and West End dance spectacular Shoes. The Tête à Tête Opera Festival runs August 4-21.

Date: July 2011
Venue: Riverside Studios, 9RLCrisp Road, London W6
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JUNE 2011
GREENWICH+DOCKLANDS INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL presents "BAROQUE BOX, a dance-opera installation" by Vocal Motions Elastic Theatre.
In collaboration with London Metropolitan University and supported by the Wellcome Trust critically acclaimed Vocal Motions Elastic Theatre invites you to peep into the imagination of a Baroque artist.
In a special staging under the beautiful colonnades of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, a large box becomes the window into seventeenth century ideas about the human body. With an original score performed live by CELLOMAN, dance-theatre and opera create a voyage across sacred, scientific, sensual and superstitious visions.  View Promo Video here!

Cast: Maya Sapone (Theresa in Ecstasy), Chiara D'Anna (The Artist), Nicolas Simeha (The Scientist), Adam Kirkham (Puzzled Jesus), Madalena Pinto (an Angel).
Musicians: Ivan Hussey (cello), Samy Bishai (violin), David Jean-Baptiste (clarinet/bass clarinet), Cosimo Keita (percussions).

Music: Ivan Hussey. Design: Nadia Malik. Production Team: Greg Piggot, Rishi Trikha, Andrew Morley, Georgina Themeras, Paul Millen, Simeon Lewis.
Film Documentation: Savage Mills. Concept and Direction Jacek Ludwig Scarso.

A Launch Event of "BAROQUE BOX - the making of a dance-opera" will be taking place at London Metropolitan University on Thursday 16 June at 6.30pm. 

Date: Fri 24 June - Sat 2 July
Venue: OLD ROYAL NAVAL COLLEGE (King William Colonnades), Greenwich, London SE10
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JUNE 2010
Vocal Motions Elastic Theatre embarks on a journey through Baroque ideas about the body. Inspired by seventeenth century art and science, this dance-opera takes the audience into a weird and wonderful world of body contradictions: from sacred to secular, from anatomical to voyeuristic, from scientific to superstitious. At times bizarrely comic, at times dark and mysterious or poetic and moving, the piece features Vocal Motions Elastic Theatre’s trademark staging style: boldly stark, visually striking and highly atmospheric.The original score, created through improvisation methodologies, will integrate the use of toy pianos, in an exclusive collaboration with Kate Ryder, internationally acclaimed specialist in this unusual instrument.
BAROCCATA will be launched, in a unique live installation version, at the opening of a contemporary art exhibition organised by The Facility and Islington Exhibits at the Graduate Centre, London Metropolitan University on FRIDAY 25th JUNE 2010. The fully staged production will premiere at the Riverside Studios on SATURDAY 14th and SUNDAY 15th AUGUST 2010, as part of the acclaimed Tête à Tête Opera Festival. Bookings open from Monday 14th June. Box Office: 020 8237 1111.

Date: Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th August 2010
Venue: Riverside Studios, Crisp Road, London W6 9RL
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MARCH 2010
The 3rd Contemporary Opera Festival NOA (New Opera Action) which takes place on 28th of March invites You to the workshop `Improvisational Musical Theatre` in Arts Printing House, dedicated to the artists of contemporary opera and musical theatre. This workshop is organized together with the company from Great Britain Vocal Motions Elastic Theatre, which establishers Jacek Ludwig Scarso and Maya Sapone are the guest teachers in the workshop and who will familiarize the participants with the principles and situations of improvisational opera. The trainings of the duration of five hours will include the variety of exercises, the testing of singing techniques, vocal improvisations and experiments and the art of acting. Here, the scenes of musical theatre will be created spontaneously, providing only the fragments of scenario by the participants previously. The opera soloists and choristers are invited to participate as well as all the artists who are interested in theatrics: singing actors, the practitioners of the art of improvisation and other enthusiasts.

Venue: Arts Printing House, Vilnius, Lithuania
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TIME OUT LONDON recommended Classical Music Concert
Young Iberian specialists, the soprano Maya Sapone, guitarist Morgan Szymanski and pianist Helen Glaisher-Hernández, present Spanish and Latin American classical music. Federico Mompou's 'Charmes'; Heitor Villa-Lobos's 'Forest of the Amazon'; 'Bachianas Brasileiras No 5'; JoaquÌn Rodrigo's Tres Canciones Españolas; Alberto Ginastera's 'Canción al árbol del Olvido'; Antonio Lauro's Venezuelan Waltzes (selection); and AgustÌn Barrios's 'Una limosna por el amor de Dios'.

Venue: Schott Recital Room, 48 Great Marlborough Street, Mayfair, W1F 7BB
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“Fabulously hot-blooded performance“
- The Times

Opera meets dance-theatre in this visually striking adaptation of the ancient myth of MEDOUSA directed by Jacek Ludwig Scarso and premiered at Tête a Tête - The Opera Festival 2009, Riverside Studios, with soprano Maya Sapone in the title role, Fernando Balsera Pita as Perseus, cellist Carina Drury and flutist Eva Caballero. Listed as one of the Festival’s Highlights in Time Out, the original score for MEDOUSA has been created through a collaborative process based on Maya Sapone’s vocal improvisations and supervised by composer and conductor Andrew Morley on a new libretto by Jacek Ludwig Scarso

Venue: Riverside Studios, Crisp Road, London W6 9RL
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