Review: Les Mamelles de Tiresias, Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, October 21

Monday, November 12, 2012
3:23 PM

Les Mamelles de Tiresias, Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, October 21

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Poulenc’s sparky opera, based on the surreal play by Guillaume Apollinaire was premiered in Paris in 1947 but it was several years before its English premiere in a two piano version at the Jubilee Hall during the 1958 festival. In the last of three performances from a mini festival of Britten, Poulenc and Copland it was possible to sense something of the novelty and excitement experienced in the same setting over half a century ago.

Director Ted Huffman chose to set the piece in a café of the mythical Riviera town and with the sense of a 1940s movie musical and Samal Blak’s sharp, stylish design achieved this admirably.

The performers and performance bristled with energy and elan, roles and costumes interchanging seamlessly. Ariane Greif has a voice of crystalline clarity and incision and a sparkling stage personality. Matthew Morris, also in fine vocal form brought touching pathos to the role of the husband when required but was alert to every change of mood. Johnny Herford was excellent as the policeman, as indeed were all the singers. The sharp, astringent edge that is such a characteristic and attractive feature of Poulenc’s music was gloriously captured.

Underpinning and supporting all this creative exuberance was the superb piano playing of Roger Vignoles and Phillipe Riga, providing the most secure foundations that any singer could wish for. The two piano arrangement is highly effective and captures the spirit of the piece while avoiding mere display. For one hour the mist and rain swirling round the hall were forgotten in a joyous outpouring of musical theatre. An excellent performance of an all-too-rarely heard work.

Gareth Jones