La Voix

Francis Poulenc

Liric tragedy in one act
Libretto: Jean Cocteau
World premiere: 9 February 1905, Opéra Comique, Paris
Premiere: 16 April 2016
Piano version

In the original French with Polish surtitles

“Aren’t we fools? It’s all over, let’s start fresh” – said Francis Poulenc, weeping, to the singer Denise Duval, also drowning in tears. Each of them was mourning the separation with their partners of many years. In such circumstances was the music of La voix humaine composed. The idea to write music to the words of Jean Cocteau’s drama came into Poulenc’s head when he was at La Scala. During the curtain calls, Maria Callas pushed her co-star, Mario del Monaco, behind the curtain, so that she would have the applause all to herself. “Write an opera for one voice only, so that Callas wouldn’t have to fight for the stage”, whispered a friend. Poulenc did write the opera, but for Denise Duval, with whom he had collaborated for many years. Also in the Warsaw staging we are looking at the world through a veil of tears – it is a blurred image seen from behind a car window. The heroine’s (Joanna Woś) make-up is also smudged, as we look over her shoulder on the streets of Warsaw by night. Or is it the world of limbo? Maja Kleczewska asks a series of questions in this staging: how realistic can a symbolic injury be? Where does the border between physical and mental suffering lie? What does it mean to part ways? Does the world end every time we part with someone?




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    Of Her and Him we know little. We know they were in love, the relationship lasted five years, they have a dog, they wrote letters to each other that are now kept in one bag. We know He has a new girlfriend. We know they took a trip to Versailles and Marseille. We also know that She tried to commit suicide. That her life was saved thanks to her best friend Marthe. That it happened on the night preceding the telephone conversation we are witnessing.

    Let’s imagine that she doesn’t want to be at home alone tonight, she gets in the car and drives around. A strange woman keeps calling her. She keeps hearing the same voice on the phone. Wrong number. This wrong number call will return many times tonight. Finally she gets the call she’s been waiting for all night, the call from Him. She drives around the city at night and hears his voice, just like every day for the past five years. The voice is like air, the conversation brings back memories, they can laugh together again and talk about how they spent the day. But they also have to talk about what’s important now, about giving back things, about what’s necessary when you split up. So, it’s about when, at what time, who will hand over what to whom – all those mundane things it’s so hard to talk about. They also have to say things the other person wants to hear: ‘I’m fine’, ‘everything’s okay’,  ‘just shopping/cooking dinner/making plans for the weekend’. The connection breaks down. She calls back. She calls his home number. He said he was at home, that he was going to bed, but he isn’t at home and he won’t come back for the night. A moment’s inattention. Too much speed, losing control of the car. A crash. The telephone rings again.

    From this moment on the conversation is different. The shock of the accident, which she won’t tell him about, pain, fear, everything starts overlapping: images of him with his lover, bodies scattered across the road, the sound of the crash, a terrible headache. The ambulance hasn’t come, there’s no doctor, no one has called the police. Sitting on the hard shoulder is a lonely business, you’re surrounded by visions or ghosts, not quite sure if what you’re experiencing is real or maybe just a dream. Maybe this is that brief moment, that thin thread to which remnants of consciousness, feelings, memory stick, to which they cling before falling into the abyss.


  • Patron of Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera

  • Partners of Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

  • Media patrons of Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

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