At the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, the jubilant “Mammelles de Tirésias” by Olivier Py


Sabine Devieilhe in the center, in

After unforgettable Dialogues of Carmelites in 2013, a striking human voice mounted without an audience in the midst of a pandemic (2020), Olivier Py completes with these Udders of Tiresias, presented at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, his exemplary Poulenc trilogy. Too short to cover an evening, the last two titles required the addition of a complementary work. Thus he had succeeded high point, by Thierry Escaich, as “back and forth” To The Human Voice (the same characters, with reversed power relations).

Nothing similar for The Nightingale, by Stravinsky, which serves here as a long prelude to the opéra-bouffe taken from the eponymous play by Guillaume Apollinaire. An unusual pairing, justified by the director − we go from a philosophical tale “for children” to a surreal tale “to make children” −, who considers it the reverse and the front of the same theater, even if it means that the fairy opera according to Andersen remains in a relative opacity for whoever discovers it.

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Lying on a small cage-bed, the Emperor of China is dying in the underwear of a cabaret while, on the other side of the curtain, upstairs, The Breasts of Tiresias. Each Stravinskian character is therefore undercover: the Chamberlain dressed as a theater director, the humble Fisherman turned dandy Journalist. Similarly, Thérèse and the Nightingale merge.

Around them, Death, whose head will be cut out, by the contours of a junk, in Chinese shadow. Engrossed by the world of cabaret and its powerful armada of technicians, artists and young and beautiful dancers more or less undressed, the Nightingale, in poetic deficit, will leave feathers there. Which will curiously reinforce the strike force of the spectacular in the second part of the evening.

Huge pink balloons

Olivier Py is playing heads and tails: it is indeed Miss Knife, his magazine leader avatar, who has taken charge of these Udders. Lights and sequins, red carpet and grand ceremonial staircase, ramps of spotlights and round tables with champagne, the jubilant music and crazy imagination of Poulenc are in tune with a brilliant acting direction, which mixes musical comedy, gags , music hall and cabaret, without ever going overboard. The decor by Pierre-André Weitz evokes the Zanzi bar, a fine allusion to this homosexual bar in Cannes that Poulenc and Apollinaire frequented in their time. Laughter fuses and froths, like the streams of tight bubbles that escape from a giant phallus invading the stage with a seed destined to repopulate the earth (“Listen, O Frenchman, to the lesson of war and have children, you who hardly ever had children. »), recalling in passing the demographic ravages of world conflicts.

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