Poulenc: Les Mamelles de Tiresias

Poulenc: Les Mamelles de Tiresias
Composer Francis Poulenc
Artist Opera Trionfo
Nieuw Ensemble
Ed Spanjaard conductor
Format 1 CD
Cat. number 92056
EAN code 5028421920566
Release April 2006

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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. Prologue (Le Directeur)
  2. Scène 1: Non, Monsieur, mon mari (Thérèse, Le mari)
  3. Scène 2: Donne-moi du lard, je te dis (Thérèse, Le mari)
  4. Scène 3: Je déménage (Le mari)
  5. Scène 4: Avec vous vieux Lacouf (Lacouf, Presto)
  6. Scène 5: Ah chère liberté (Lacouf, Presto, Thérèse, Le mari, Le peuple)
  7. Scène 6: Ah puisqu’enfin voici un agent (Le mari, Le gendarme, Le peuple)
  8. Scène 7: Fameux représentant de toute autorité (Le mari, Le peuple)
  9. Scène 8: Elle sort un bobard (Le gendarme, La marchande de journaux, Le mari, Lacouf, Presto, Le peu
  10. Entr’acte (Le peuple)
  11. Scène 1: Ah c’est fou les joies de la paternité (Le mari, Les nouveaux-nés)
  12. Scène 2: Hands Up! Bonjour Monsieur le mari (Le journaliste, Le mari)
  13. Scène 3: Eh, oui! C’est simple comme un périscope (Le mari)
  14. Scène 4: Mon cher papa si vous voulez savoir (Le fils, Le mari)
  15. Scène 5: Celui-ci n’est pas réussi (Le mari, Le gendarme)
  16. Scène 6: Il paraît que vous en faites de belles (Le mari, Le gendarme)
  17. Scène 7: Chastes citoyens de Zanzibar me voici (Thérèse, Le mari, Le gendarme)
  18. Scène 8: Il faut s’aimer ou je succombe (Thérèse, Le mari, La marchande de journaux, Le gendarme, Le