On September 24, 2021, Opera Philadelphia premiered its stream of the 1958 opera by Jean Cocteau and Francis Poulenc. The Human Voice (The Human Voice). Director James Darrah shot the film in the richly gilded Elkins Estate, a Renaissance-style mansion built in Europe. Renowned French interior design experts Allard et Fils designed the pieces that decorator Tony Fanning used in the film. The entire building was then shipped to Cheltenham Township in Pennsylvania, where it is a most unusual work of art.
The Comédie-Française created Cocteau’s monodrama The Human Voice in 1930, but it did not become an opera until twenty-eight years later. Although the publisher of Poulenc wanted him to write the opera of Maria Callas, the composer preferred to choose Denise Duval in the role of Elle, replacing all the abandoned lovers in the world. She goes from invoking sweet memories to rage and despair, none that makes the lover on the other end of the line want to reconnect with her. The forty-minute musical work offers the soprano a wide range of dramatic expressions.
Although the technical state of telephone conversation in the 1950s becomes evident when the connection is lost and the wrong numbers arrive on the line, this one-act psychological opera is truly a play for our time of COVID-physical isolation. 19. Phones are one of the few ways around our inability to come into physical contact with each other.
Soprano Patricia Racette is captivating as she engages in every twist of the score as if it were an emotional punch. She has created this role in several cities and in each she has drawn the audience into the immediacy of Her predicament. Camera work that shows the aftermath of a failed romance also helps create the character of Elle.
Poulenc wrote that he wanted his opera in one act, in one person, “bathed in the greatest orchestral sensuality.” I miss Poulenc’s fiery and sometimes erotic orchestration, but the unique piano presents the situation at its most acute. Singing with an orchestra would have dulled Elle’s screams, Christopher Allen’s eloquent and well-articulated piano performance makes Elle’s emotional situation sharp and adds dramatic emphasis to her emotional letting go, while her tempos move the performance forward. .
Since the pain of her abandonment is audible in every colorful sound of Racette’s voice, I began to wonder if it is Elle’s constant need for assertion that drives her lover to leave her. There are only a few moments of respite. She remembers the good times, but she can’t seem to focus on them for more than a second. Costume designer Christi Karvonides showcases these episodes with imaginative outfits that intrigue the eye while placing the action in its real time frame.
Now, in fall 2021, Racette and Darrah present their acclaimed rendition of The Human Voice on screen in a new film adaptation of the 1958 French monodrama. It airs on the Opera Philadelphia Channel from Friday, September 24. The film is available to rent for $ 20.
Visit https://www.operaphila.tv. to start broadcasting the Opera Philadelphia channel.