La voix humaine
|La voix humaine|
The composer in 1922
|Translation||The Human Voice|
|Premiere||6 February 1959|
La voix humaine (English: The Human Voice) is a forty-minute, one-act
The work has been frequently revived. Sopranos from France, other continental European countries, the UK and the US have performed the solo role, and several of them, beginning with Duval, have recorded it.
Cocteau finished writing La voix humaine in 1928, and the
Upon the success of his second opera
Poulenc met Cocteau early in his career because of the latter's close relationship with
In composing La voix humaine, Poulenc strove to maintain the emotional effectiveness of Cocteau's original drama. He very carefully adapted Cocteau's text, omitting only those passages that he believed would reduce the emotional tension of the opera. In his article on Poulenc and Cocteau, Denis Waleckx proposes that there are five types of "phases" in Cocteau's play. These phases deal with chronology, psychological evolution, social interaction, telephone problems, and the "remembrance of past happiness." [n 2] Poulenc left the chronology, telephone problem, and past happiness phases mostly intact, but cut down on or entirely omitted many of the psychological or social phases. This resulted in a protagonist who was "quieter, more modest, less hysterical, less unbearable, and thereby probably more touching than Cocteau's." Poulenc thereby focused on the relationship of the woman and her lover, while still retaining the key points and overall character of Cocteau's play.
Poulenc viewed the soprano singing the role of Elle as "a co-composer" of the part. Because Poulenc wrote the role specifically for Duval, the French soprano was his original "co-composer." Duval also helped Poulenc with his adaptation of Cocteau's text.[n 3] Upon the opera's completion, Poulenc and Duval visited Cocteau, who was responsible for directing and designing costumes and stage décor for the premiere. Cocteau worked closely with Duval and adapted his directions for lighting and costuming to complement her physical attributes.
Poulenc finished his score for voice and piano on 2 June 1958 and spent the next two months orchestrating the work, completing the version for full orchestra on 7 August 1958. The tragédie-lyrique was premiered on 6 February 1959 at the Opéra-Comique, Paris, with Georges Prêtre conducting and Duval performing the role of Elle. The opera met immediate success and went on to be performed at