Francis Poulenc
La Voix humaine / La Dame de Monte-Carlo

harmonia mundi France HMC 901759

Recorded April 2001


Felicity Lott - soprano

Orchestre de la Suisse Romande

Armin Jordan

La Voix Humaine is a marvellous piece. Originally a play by Cocteau, created by Berthe Bovy, Poulenc set it to music, and it was premiered- and written for- Denise Duval. (There is a marvellous recording of her singing it, conducted by Pretre.) It is a 40+ minute monologue, in which a woman has her last phone conversation with her lover. He is marrying someone else- she has always known that the relationship would not be permanent, but this is the end. In the course of the conversation, they keep being cut off, or other voices come on to the line, and at one stage she calls him back, only to discover that he is not at home, as he has said he is. She tries gently to get him to admit that he is lying to her, but he won't. It's a harrowing scene; terribly difficult to remember because no-one ever answers! But you just have to live through the feelings of rejection and despair. It is quite devastating to play. Armin Jordan and the OSR play wonderfully; it is so important to have a sympathetic conductor for that piece, because he has to judge the pauses in the conversation, where the man is presumed to be speaking. If he is too slow- or too quick- it is very difficult to maintain the tension.
La Dame de Monte Carlo is also by Cocteau, and lasts about 7 minutes. Quite different, but powerful too. FL