Les mamelles de Tirésias (The Breasts of Tiresias) is Francis Poulenc's first opera. The play of the same name it's based on, by Guillaume Apollinaire, coined the term Surrealism. This was the U.S. Premiere of an adaptation made by Benjamin Britten, originally written to translate the piece into English and reduce the orchestration to two pianos, meant to be played by Britten and Poulenc. This new production, inspired by surrealist masters Jean Cocteau and Luis Buñuel, was staged at Seattle's oldest Vaudeville theater, the Columbia City Theater.

Les mamelles de Tirésias by Francis Poulenc
The U.S. Premiere of an English adaptation by Benjamin Britten
Performed in the Columbia City Theater
Spring 2013
 

Thérèse/Tirésias
The Husband
The Director/The Gendarme
Lacouf/The Journalist
Presto
The Son
The Newspaper Woman
Chorus








Co-Music Director/Piano 1
Co-Music Director/Piano 2
Editor
Director/Co-Set Designer
Lighting Designer/Co-Set Designer
Costume Designer
Sculptor
Scenic Poster Artist
Scenic Drop Artist
Stage Manager
Music Assistant
 

Press Previews

The title role in Francis Poulenc’s 1944 opera Les mamelles de Tirésias is not played by anyone onstage, but by the bag of balloons on director Dan Miller’s prop table. A pair of those balloons, released from soprano Tess Altiveros’ costume—and with the help of a bluish-gray beard that looks like an S.O.S pad exploded on her face—will transform her from the fed-up Thérèse to the belligerent general Tirésias, who, sans mamelles, launches an anti-child campaign.
— Gavin Borchert, Seattle Weekly
A theater piece in which a woman’s breasts float off to the sky as balloons and she becomes a bearded male general, while her husband is constrained to produce the kids—some 1000 of them in one afternoon—is about as zany as you can get. Poulenc had a history of writing music which dealt with the nonsensical and when he read Apollinaire’s 1917 play in which the poet used the absurd to make a undercover plea for more French babies (this during the WWI slaughter of vast numbers of young French manhood), he had the material for a comedic masterpiece.

Enter a little opera company in Seattle, Vespertine Opera Theater, born in 2011, which aims to present the offbeat, the unusual, the rarely-presented in unique or unexpected venues.
— Phillipa Kiraly, City Arts Magazine

Press Reviews

For many of us, opera can be a somewhat remote experience. We sit far away from the singers in a large hall, and while we can hear every emotion in their voices, we sometimes have a hard time seeing emotional nuances in their faces. But Vespertine Opera Theater’s production of Les Mamelles de Tirésias (The Breasts of Tirésias) is up close and visceral at Columbia City Theater.
[...]
This production is a historical one, as this is its U.S. premiere. In 1956, Benjamin Britten became a big fan of the French opera, and discussed with Poulenc the possibility of performing it at the Aldeburgh Festival (co-founded by Britten). To suit the space, Britten and long-term collaborator Viola Tunnard arranged the opera for voice and two pianos. Tenor Peter Pears, stage director Colin Graham, and choreographer John Cranko produced an English libretto, and it was performed in June of 1958. It then disappeared, resurfacing only in 2011.
— Margaret Higginson, The SunBreak
The staging, by Vespertine Opera Theatre director Dan Wallace Miller, is fast-paced, cleverly inventive, and lots of fun, placing principal and supporting singers all over the tiny Columbia City Theater (including in the audience) and playing off the preposterous premises of the plot. The singing, particularly from the leads (Tess Altiveros, José Rubio, Daniel Oakden), is fearless and all-out; the commitment of the whole cast is evident all evening. The two pianists, both highly experienced opera people (Dean Williamson and David McDade), are not only unanimous and supportive of the cast, but also expert at conducting and cueing. They provided both the glue and the energy that kept the production on track.
— Melinda Bargreen, KingFM