Friday, May 29, 2015

Opera Columbus and The Human Voice

Opera Columbus presents a double bill of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and Poulenc's La voix humaine at the Southern Theater. Public preview performance Wednesday June 3 at 7:30, further performances Friday June 5  at 8:00 and Sunday June 7 at 2:00.

Pagliacci is sung in Italian and La voix humaine in French. English titles are projected above the stage. Just come. Allow yourself to be seduced.

Tenor Enrico Caruso self caricature as Pagliacci. H
e's not singing in Columbus
You know Pagliacci. Heart broken clown betrayed by his young wife. Everything ends badly. "No more rice krispies."

Opera Columbus and The Human Voice? Is that a tacky play on words, or what?

La voix humaine is a one act monodrama by Jean Cocteau, set to music by Francis Poulenc and first performed as a one woman opera in 1959. There may be a rolling of eyes among those who "hate opera" in the first place. It's bad enough with all the tenors screaming and the elephants doing on stage what elephants have to do. But at least there's some crowd and some color. What's to enjoy with one lady alone on stage even if she's just wearing a slip, and she's on the phone yet, all the while.
Francis Poulenc

These days couples break up via e mail and texts (wimps) over a lunch break. Fifty years ago you
could break up over the telephone, but you were in a two way conversation making it harder to bail. Believe it or not, it's hard to hang up on someone, be they former lovers or bill collectors.

A woman alone is on the phone with her lover who is clearly leaving her. The table is set for dinner for two. The bed is turned down. Elle (she, her) is being stood up. She realizes this slowly, as it becomes clear the voice on the other end of the phone is humoring her, leading her and hanging up. In the midst of her threats and her pleas, she rails at the operator for dropping "His" call. She orders the party line to empty.

Here's the soprano Camille Zamora, who sings La voix humaine next week in Columbus:

Composer Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) was a devout Catholic who liked rough trade. He was a devotee of the Madonna of Rocamadour, where his nephew was a monk.  Poulenc wrote in every genre. His sacred choral music is exquisite. His opera Les dialogues des Carmelites tells the true story of an order of nuns destroyed by the French Revolution. He wrote a ballet called La biches and another opera called Les mamelles de Tiresias where a man gives birth to 55,000 children. This was a composer of creativity and wit, with a deep spiritual bent.

Poulenc's music, combined with the bite of Cocteau's text that makes La voix humaine a lot more than just some dame being dumped. In the forty minutes it takes from the first dial tone, the audience is damned near wiped out. Cocteau's play has been a vehicle for Ingrid Bergman and Anna Magnani.

Last year, Sohpia Loren returned to the screen for a thirty minute adaptation directed by her son Edoardo Ponti. Both Cocteau and Poulenc insisted that Elle must be a beautiful young girl. Never mind. Since when has Sophia Loren at 80 ceased to be the world's sexiest woman?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for expanding on the Human Voice. Enjoyed last night's performance and looking forward to the new season.