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March 16, 2011

Peabody Opera presents double bill of fanciful Poulenc, Ravel works

Peabody Opera has been on a French kick this season. Judging by the fine production of Massenet's "Manon," things ought to be quite interesting when the company turns this week to a really great pair of unusual works -- Ravel's "L'enfant et les sortileges" (The Child and the Sorceries) and Poulenc's
"Les mamelles de Tiresias" (The Breasts of Tiresias). Performances are Wednesday through Saturday.

The 1944 Poulenc opera isn't quite as, um, titillating as it sounds, but is stacked with fabulous surrealist fancies. Based on a play by Apollinaire, the work tells of a wife who changes her gender and her husband, who gives birth to more than 40,000 children in one day. Amid all the nonsense, the music conveys a subtle eulogy to a France devastated by two world wars.

Ravel's prismatic opera, with a libretto by Colette, deals with a nasty kid prone to hurting animals and things. He gets his comeuppance when his victims, including a clock, a tea cup, a tree and a poor cat, come to life. In the end, the boy develops a conscience and a heart.

Here's a snippet of the Poulenc piece to get you in the mood for Peabody Opera's cool double bill:

Posted by Tim Smith at 3:16 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, Opera, Peabody Institute

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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