Poulenc: Les Mamelles de Tiresias (BOC)

Poulenc: Les Mamelles de Tiresias (BOC)
Composer Francis Poulenc
Artist Opera Trionfo
Nieuw Ensemble
Ed Spanjaard conductor
Format 1 CD
Cat. number 8951
EAN code 5029365895125
Release December 2009

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About this release

Poulenc’s remarkable comic opera ‘The Breasts of Tiresias’ was written during the darkest days of the German occupation of France. The premiere, at the Opera Comique was a great success, and given this was in 1947, it must have provided a much needed tonic for the war weary Parisians.

The libretto was written by the composer, and adapted from the 1903 play by Apollinaire. He was the playwright that coined the term surrealist’, and his play (and Poulenc’s libretto) is certainly a prime example of surrealism. He draws on the ancient legend of the blind seer Tiresias, who is granted his wish to be a woman to find out what life (and sex) is like for both genders.

Apollinaire transforms and reverses the ancient Tiresias into the very modern Thérèse who wants to make war, not babies. As her breasts float skywards, her husband takes her place – and promptly gives birth to 40,049 babies in a single day. Poulenc makes this into a madcap farcical drama, a racy story that sails close to the wind with many double meanings allied to a sensual and wonderfully crafted score.

The work is in many ways the quintessential 20th-century French comic opera. It is, however, rarely heard – the last high-profile
staging was at the Metropolitan Opera in 2002. This recording is a welcome addition to the catalogue as the work is a gem among 20th-century operas and deserves to be better known.

Track list

Disk 1

  1. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Prologue (Director)
  2. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Act 1: Scene 1: Non, Monsieur, mon mari (Thérèse/Husband)
  3. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Act 1: Scene 2: Donne-moi du lard, je te dis (Thérèse/Husband)
  4. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Act 1: Scene 3: Je déménage (Husband)
  5. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Act 1: Scene 4: Avec vous, vieux Lacouf (Lacouf/Presto)
  6. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Act 1: Scene 5: Ah, chère liberté (Lacouf/Presto/Thérèse/Husband/Townspeople)
  7. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Act 1: Scene 6: Ah, puisqu’enfin voici un agent (Husband/Policeman/Townspeople)
  8. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Act 1: Scene 7: Fameux représentant de toute autorité (Husband/Townspeople)
  9. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Act 1: Scene 8: Elle sort un bobard (Policeman/Newspaper Woman/Husband/Lacouf/Presto/Townspeople)
  10. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Act 1: Intermezzo (Townspeople)
  11. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Act 2: Scene 1: Ah, c’est fou les joies de la paternité (Husband/Newborns)
  12. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Act 2: Scene 2: Hands Up!…Bonjour, Monsieur le mari (Journalist/Husband)
  13. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Act 2: Scene 3: Eh, oui! C’est simple comme un périscope (Husband)
  14. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Act 2: Scene 4: Mon cher papa si vous voulez savoir (Son/Husband)
  15. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Act 2: Scene 5: Celui-ci n’est pas réussi (Husband/Policeman)
  16. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Act 2: Scene 6: Il paraît que vous en faites de belles (Husband/Policeman)
  17. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Act 2: Scene 7: Chastes citoyens de Zanzibar, me voici (Thérèse/Husband/Policeman)
  18. Les Mamelles de Tirésias: Act 2: Scene 8: Il faut s’aimer ou je succombe (Thérèse/Husband/Newspaper Woman/Policeman/Townspeople)