The Surrealness of Knives and Breast



By John Farrell

In true surrealist tradition, the opera started early.

Well, not really. The peripatetic Long Beach Opera company offered its second production of the year, Tears of a Knife and The Breasts of Tiresias, at the Center Theater of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center on a weekend between International City Theatre productions, and the Sunday in question just happened to be (they claim there was no planning involved) the weekend that California clocks were moved ahead one hour for Daylight Savings Time.

That meant their two o’clock starting time was actually one o’clock, if you hadn’t reset your watch.. Several patrons were confused, and one critic, who never got the news, missed the entire first half, Tears of a Knife, because no one told him times were a changin’.

That critic won’t be named, but here is a review of The Breasts of Tiresias, the second half of Long Beach Opera’s double-barrelled surreal-absurdist presentation. The Breasts of Tiresias, first written by Francis Poulenc in the 1939? but premièred after World War II in Paris in 1947, tells the story of Therese (soprano Ani Maldjian) who wants to be a man: a lawyer, a general even, and wants out of marriage to a man whose only statement to here is “Where is my meat?” She gets rid of her breasts, those things men cherish, and becomes Tiresias, who goes on to be a soldier. Her husband (baritone Robin Buck) decides he can make babies without her and produces 10,049 babies, all of them talented. All this takes place in Zanzibar, a suburb of Nice, to music that is jazzy, danceable, infectious. It was certainly shocking in 1947, much less so sixty years later.

The production was staged and choreographed by Long Beach Opera veteran Ken Roht, who made the Center Theater stage a vibrant place for the chorus of babies, all dressed in hazmat Dr. Dentons, with moveable furniture provided by the cast, who came in through the audience, held a baby demonstration in the aisles, and occasionally addressed the audience directly. Suzan Hanson was the charming newspaper vendor. Roberto Perlas Gomez the Gendarme who lusts after the husband (Buck) after he becomes a woman dressed in a lime-green house coat, Doug Jones and Benito Galindo, two roulette-obsessed gentlemen. Andreas Mitisek led the small orchestra from behind a screen on which were projected videos and an occasional surrealist print.

Tears of a Knife and The Breasts of Tiresias will be repeated Saturday, March 17 at 8 p.m., and one presumes that Tears of a Knife is as innovative as Tiresias. Maybe this time the watch won’t melt.

Tickets are $29-$150. One performance, Saturday, March 17 at 8 p.m. remains.

Details: (562) 432-5934,
Venue: Center Theatre of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center
Address: 300 East Ocean Blvd., Long Beach


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