Les Mamelles de Tirésias

Les Mamelles de Tirésias
By Francis Poulenc. Lyric Opera of Melbourne. Director: Cathy Hunt. Conductor: Simon Bruckard. Chapel off Chapel. April 7 – 14, 2018.

With Les Mamelles de Tirésias Lyric Opera have continued their practice of performing obscure works. Written at the end of the World War II, this surreal opera features Therese, the title character, railing against being a woman. So she discards her breasts (balloons) and goes into the world in search of a more fulfilling life.

Her husband takes on the female role and decides to have babies – thousands of them! The moral of the story was that, at the end of the war, France was to populate or perish.

It was a delightful romp.

It opened with a prologue, sung impressively by baritone Stephen Marsh. Coloratura Kate MacFarlane played the title role and somehow made herself understood in some very high music. Raphael Wong sang beautifully as the husband, not quite sure how to handle his wife’s change in circumstances.

The rest of the cast generally sang ensemble, but did get their chances to shine. Their singing was very tight. They each had their own character, worked well together, contributing to the frenetic action. The costumes were colourful and the makeup edgy. Everyone in the ensemble had one eye made up more heavily than the other.

In spite of this being a modern opera, the music was quite listenable and the Benjamin Britten arrangement for two pianos worked well, as did the pianists, Simon Bruckard and Peter Toohey.

Not a masterpiece, but enthusiastically received by the capacity audience.

Graham Ford

Image: Alastair Cooper-Golec, Sabrina Surace and Tim Daly in Les Mamelles de Tirésias. Photographer: Robert Alexander Smith

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