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Con Opera presents Les Mamelles de Tiresias

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by Gypsy Rose (subscribe)
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A gender bending, power-dressing cabaret opera
Le Mamelles de Tiresias (The Breasts of Tiresias) is a surrealist opera bouffe featuring singing, surrealism and shoulder pads! It showcases the elements of cabaret and burlesque.

Image Courtesy from Media Images

This wacky opera was re-imagined in the 1980s. Composer Francis Poulenc's surrealist comedy sees one woman's rebellion explode gender norms, biological constraints and even her own breasts!

Image Courtesy from Media Images

Poulenc's opera is an absurdist romp through the turbulent relationship between Therese and her husband. It began with a feminist revolt in which Therese changes herself to a man and changes her husband into a woman and ending with a poignant message of peace to a country ravaged by war.

Image Courtesy from Media Images

Act 1 opens with a prologue in which the Theatre Director addresses the audience in an extended aria. The act continues with Therese (a feminist with military ambitions), who is sick of being cast aside due to her gender, so she decides to make a change. Her breasts, represented by balloons, escape from her blouse and float upwards and she starts to grow a beard.

Image Courtesy from Media Images

Her husband thinks that the stranger he sees killed his wife and donned her clothes until she explains to him that she is no longer Therese, but now Tiresias.

The play continues with the husband being forced to take up childbirth, achieving remarkable success, with 40,000 babies in a day, and is interviewed by a journalist. The Gendarme complains about the sudden increase in population needing to be fed, so the husband suggests taking ration cards from a fortune teller.

Credit: Clare Hawley

Les Mamelles de Tiresias was composed in 1945 and is based on the play by Guillaume Apollinaire. Poulenc tuned the play for an operatic subject towards the close of World War II, when its surrealists/ dada aesthetic masked the tragic realities of the Nazi occupation in France.

Credit: Clare Hawley

The absurd scene from the second half of the Opera, where the seemingly outrageous situation of dozens and dozens were born, took on another overtone in the context of the harsh reality of the severely diminished population post-war Europe.

Credit: Clare Hawley border="1

This performance was certainly an operatic rarity, which was a unique and bewildering melange of the unlikely, the absurd and the hysterical all united together by Poulenc's rich and irreverent score.

It featured plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and stellar performances by the performers as well as superb music from the orchestra.

The Opera is in French with English subtitles.

Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office.
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*Gypsy Rose was invited as a guest
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Why? A comedy & quirky opera performance
When: 19-26 May 2018
Where: Sydney Conservatorium of Music, 1 Conservatorium Rd, Sydney
Cost: Adults: $40pp & Concession, Student & Child: $25pp
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