The Welsh National Opera (WNO) has released a new film version of Poulenc’s La voix humaine (The Human Voice, 1959) starring soprano Claire Booth as L.
The production was originally conceived for WNO and Festival of Voice in 2016 and performed in a flat in Penarth, South Wales. The concept for this new digital adaptation is a Zoom party at L’s studio flat. While she’s waiting for her guests to (virtually) arrive, L receives a phone call from her lover who is ending their relationship. She is devastated and her despair builds to a shattering climax.
The piece was directed by Sir David Pountney, and Claire was accompanied by pianist Christopher Glynn. Richard Stokes provided a new English translation of the French libretto.
Claire opened up her home to filming and recording, which took place in Oxfordshire in September under social-distancing guidelines. The opera was recorded ‘as live’, with Claire singing to Christopher’s musical accompaniment from a separate room in the house.
“The twin themes of loneliness and communication were pretty timeless before the pandemic, but of course there’s an incredible resonance to L’s story in these times,” Claire said. “I don’t think there’s anyone who can’t relate to a story of lost love and the need to connect, choosing either to put on a mask or show vulnerability.”
The medium of film offered an intimate gaze on this one-act opera, with viewers bearing witness to the range of emotions experienced by L, from joy and desire to devastation and deep despair.
WNO General Director Aidan Lang commented: “This period has shown us the potential of digital work if it is created expressly for that medium. Nobody would seriously suggest that a digital experience can ever replace a live performance, but this is a perfect example of a piece of operatic repertoire that translates well to film and allows for an immersive and intimate experience of the highest quality.”
This online production of La voix humaine was created to celebrate World Opera Day on 25 October. It is available to view via WNO’s website until 25 April 2021. It is free to access, but viewers can make a donation to support WNO’s work.
Soprano Claire Booth stars as L in a new filmed version of Poulenc’s Le voix humaine, available to stream now.