La Voix Humaine – Text Jean Cocteau / Music Francis Poulenc 

Director: Magdalene Minnaar

Soprano: Janelle Visagie

Piano and Musical Director: Jose Dias

Visuals designed and created by: Heleen van Tonder, Jacinda Barker, Robin Burke, Daniel Marais, Rufus Phakola, Darien Khumalo

Poulenc’s La voix humaine (The Human Voice) is considered one of the most challenging pieces of the solo operatic repertoire. It is based on the play by the same name by Jean Cocteau. Cocteau finished writing his play in 1928, and although Poulenc was aware of the piece and interested in it, it wasn’t until 1958 that he sat down to adapt the play and compose his “monodrama” opera for soprano Denise Duval. In composing La voix humaine, Poulenc strove to maintain the emotional effectiveness of Cocteau’s original drama, carefully adapting Cocteau’s text, to omit only those passages that he believed would reduce the emotional tension of the opera. 

In this reworking of Poulenc’s masterpiece, La voix humaine, Magdalene Minnaar focuses on dissecting the psychological layers of someone being trapped with Alzheimer’s disease, or Dementia, and exploring how this impacts the cognitive space of the person. The Soprano, Janelle Visagie will be going in and out of reality, dipping into the past and the present, as she explores the emotional trajectory of the key character(s) in her life, as per the libretto.

It has been suggested that achieving authenticity in performances of La voix humaine today is best attained by preserving the original production’s attention to the role of modernity in the opera. An analysis of Poulenc’s and Cocteau’s postmodern aesthetic and unique collaboration with Denise Duval, combined with a discussion of the symbolism of the telephone itself, supports the idea that contemporary performance practice of the opera must go beyond replicating the original. This sparse but powerful one woman with piano production attempts to do just that.

Event Details

Name La voix humaine 
Date Sat 19 Aug 18:30