Set Design: Christopher Mumaw
Lighting Design: Marnie Cumings
Costume Design: Savannah Baltazar
Co-Music Directors: Dean Williamson
David McDade

Poulenc/Britten, Les mamelles de Tirésias
U.S. Premiere of Britten/Pears Adaptation
Vespertine Opera Theater
Columbia City Theater
2013
 

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.
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.