Opera Scotland

Mamelles de Tirésias 2019Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Read more about the opera Mamelles de Tirésias

Conservatoire students previously had a great success with Poulenc's surreal post-war farce, back in 2015, when a small-scale, studio-based production was given great immediacy using the reductio of the score for two pianos. That arrangement, first given at Aldeburgh, with Poulenc and Britten at the keyboards, worked very enjoyably in Glasgow. It was interesting to see (and hear) the work performed on a larger scale, with full orchestra.

Composed in 1945, The Breasts of Tirésias tells the ribald tale of a wife who changes sex to obtain power among men, with unexpected outcomes, The titular breasts are balloons, easily removed to provide a more sylph-like appearance. The original play was written in reaction to the Great War, with the operatic version following World War Two. Both emphasise the need for France to be repopulated as a matter of urgency. The lady's actions are not well calculated to assist this purpose, so it is left to her abandoned husband to produce abundant offspring - thousands of them.

This staging by James Bonas was perhaps dominated by the wonderfully colourful designs of Tom Paris - beautiful constructs in pastel shades, with sparkly costumes picking up just enough of the light. It was remarkably stylish, and the complete cast and substantial chorus clearly thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Having previously heard the light, slightly brittle, piano reduction, it was fascinating to hear Poulenc's original thoughts for the orchestra. Just in the opening minutes, durng the Theatre Director's prologue, we heard from the orchestra phrases and colours reminiscent of the Organ Concerto and Gloria, which were followed by a forestaste of that wonderful opera Dialogues des Carmélites. All these lovely colours were projected quite beautifully by the student orchestra under Swiss guest conductor Matthew Kofi Waldren.

The soloists threw themselves at this piece with glee, led by Catrin Woodruff and Alex Bevan as the couple with the most significant parts.  Mark Nathan's Director and Robin Horgan as the Son were both very impressive, as were Seumas Begg and Rhys Thomas as the two drunks - the fat and thin aspects of their physiques tactfully omitted from the programme as such descriptions would have seemed somewhat surreal.

This delightful operetta worked beautifully as the second part of an evening programme. Here it was paired in an excellent double bill with Puccini's earlier black comedy Gianni Schicchi.

Performance Cast

Director of the Theatre

Mark Nathan


Catrin Woodruff


Alex Bevan

Lacouf a thin drunk

Seumas Begg

Presto a fat drunk

Rhys Alun Thomas


Oskar McCarthy

Newspaper Vendor (Marchande des journaux)

Fiona Joice


Thomas Kinch


Robin Horgan

Elegant Lady a woman of Zanzibar (La dame elegante)

Charlotte Richardson

Woman a woman of Zanzibar (La grosse dame)

Lauren Young

Bearded Gentleman a gentleman of Zanzibar (Le monsieur barbu)

MacArthur Alewel

Performance DatesMamelles de Tirésias 2019

Map List

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland | Glasgow

19 Jan, 19.15 21 Jan, 19.15 25 Jan, 19.15 26 Jan, 19.15

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