LES MAMELLES DE TIRÉSIAS
What do breasts, balloons and baritones have in common?
In what must be the craziest opera to ever take to the stage,
the heroine explodes gender norms, biological constraints and even her own breasts!
Find out more about the opera here:
Watch a production of the opera here:
Therese / Tiresias: Kate Macfarlane
The Husband: Raphael Wong
The Prologue: Stephen Marsh
Little Therese: Sabrina Surace
The Journalist: Emilia Bertolini
The Newspaper Seller: Alison Lemoh
The Son: Timothy Daly
Lacouf: Alastair Cooper-Golec
Gendarme: Bernard Leon
Presto: James Young
Director: Cathy Hunt
Music Director: Simon Bruckard
Costume Designer: Lucy Wilkins
Lighting Designer: Shane Grant
Set designer: Robert Smith
Choreographer: Joel Fenton
Poster design: CAST
Production and Stage Manager: Tanje Ruddick
DATES AND TIMES
Saturday April 7th 8:00pm Gala Opening
Sunday April 8th 4:00pm Matinee
Wednesday April 11 7:30pm
Friday April 13 7:30pm
Saturday 14 April 7:00pm
Performance lasts one hour, with no interval
Tickets can be purchased from Chapel off Chapel online, over the phone or in person. Buy now here.
In a short prologue, the theatre director introduces the work, promising the audience a moral piece on the necessity of having children.
Thérèse tires of her life as a submissive woman and becomes the male Tirésias when her breasts turn into balloons and float away. Her husband is not pleased by this, still less so when she ties him up and dresses him as a woman.
Meanwhile, a pair of drunken gamblers called Presto and Lacouf affectionately shoot one another and are mourned by the assembled townspeople. Thérèse marches off to conquer the world as General Tiresias, leaving her captive husband to the attentions of the local gendarme, who is fooled by his female attire.
Off-stage, General Tiresias starts a successful campaign against childbirth and is hailed by the populace. Fearful that France will be left sterile if women give up sex, the husband vows to find a way to bear children without women. Lacouf and Presto return from the dead and express both interest and scepticism.
The curtain rises to cries of "Papa!" The husband's project has been a spectacular success, and he has given birth to 40,049 children in a single day. A visiting Parisian journalist asks how he can afford to feed the brood, but the husband explains that the children have all been very successful in careers in the arts, and have made him a rich man with their earnings. After chasing the journalist off, the husband decides to raise a journalist of his own, but is not completely pleased with the results.
The gendarme now arrives to report that, because of overpopulation, the citizens of Zanzibar are all dying of hunger. The husband suggests getting ration cards printed by a tarot-reading fortune-teller. Just such a fortune-teller immediately appears, looking rather familiar under her mask.
The fortune-teller prophesies that the fertile husband will be a multi-millionaire, but that the sterile gendarme will die in abject poverty. Incensed, the gendarme attempts to arrest her, but she strangles him and reveals herself as none other than Thérèse. The couple reconcile, and the whole cast gathers at the footlights to urge the audience to make babies!
The English composer Benjamin Britten wanted to program his friend Francis Poulenc's opera Les Mamelles for the 1958 Aldeburgh festival. The Jubilee Hall however wasn't big enough for an orchestra so Britten made an arrangement for two pianos, one of which he played himself at the premiere.
Other changes included a new translation into English and the re-writting of the role of The Husband for a tenor (sung in those performances by Britten's partner, Peter Pears) rather than the original baritone. Lyric's production uses Britten's arrangement with a slightly revised translation but a baritone rather than a tenor. You can find out more about the arrangement here:
Costumes for the production of Mamelles were made possible with the support of Mr Vinay Kumar.
The pianos for the production were kindly supplied by Yamaha Australia.