• Poulenc. La Voix Humaine. Stephanie d'Oustrac. Glyndebourne. Stunning.

    From Andrew Clarke@21:1/5 to All on Mon Feb 20 23:42:50 2023
    I'd never heard of this monodrame of Poulenc, with a text by Jean Cocteau, until very recently, when a sound recording was released with Veronique Gens and the Orchestre national de Lille. I immediately bought this, which happily includes the libretto,
    duly printed out.
    Then I discovered the Poulenc double-bill available of Glyndebourne Encore streaming site, in Laurent Pelly's production. It is about a woman whose relationship of five years has been ended by her lover. The music is perfectly civilised, with no Second
    Vienna School howls and shrieks, the libretto is in perfectly restrained and polite French, so there's no Expressionism either. M. Pelly gives us a minimal decor: just a small oblong stage, and a line of crimson light projected across the dark back drop,
    and a telephone by means of which the protagonist speaks to the man who has just dropped her, and by means of which we hear her self-delusions, her struggle to retain some kind of poise, her struggles with a party-line in which other people are obviously
    interrupting her, and her struggles to retain some kind of hope. It should be banal, but it isn't. The performance by Mme d'Oustrac, right from her first appearance, is overwhelmingly powerful. Paradoxically, the singer is best known to me for her roles
    of immensely powerful heroineswomen - well, one woman and one goddess - In Lully's 'Atys' and 'Armide'.

    Cocteau, it strikes me, was an odd mixture of the extremely silly and works of absolute genius. Among the latter I'd have included his two great films, 'Orphee' and 'La Belle et la Bete', the novel 'Les Enfants Terribles' - the only one I've actually
    read - and now, I think we have to say, 'La Voix Humaine.'

    Andrew Clarke

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