Opera Scotland

Voix Humaine La Voix Humaine; The Human Voice

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Francis Poulenc (born Paris, 7 January 1899; died Paris, 30 January 1963)


Jean Cocteau (1889-1963)


Original play (1928) by Cocteau.



First Performance: Paris (Opera-Comique), 6 February 1959.

First Performance in UK: Edinburgh (King's Theatre), 30 August 1960.

First Performance in Scotland: As above.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



Poulenc's final stage work is a forty minute solo for lyric soprano - an unusual format for an operatic work, its major precedent being Schoenberg's monodrama Erwartung. There is a similar sense of the anxiety and insecurity of the protagonist.



Elle (soprano)


Plot Summary

The nameless lady, known simply as 'she', spends the duration of the work talking on the phone to her ex-lover, who, it seems, has not only dumped her, but is about to marry someone else. This being the 1920s, there are all sorts of technical problems involved in a forty minute phone call, and she shouts variously not just at her ex, but also at the operator and other phone users, the victims of crossed lines. At last it becomes clear that her ex-lover is scarcely listening, and certainly uncaring (and we get a fair idea of why that may have happened). In the end it becomes clear that 'she' is suicidal, though whether the chosen method is the traditional one of winding the phone cord round her neck is perhaps less certain.

The Cast


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