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Poulenc: La Voix Humaine [Felicity Lott/Graham Johnson] Blu-ray Review

poulenc-la-voix-humaine-blu-ray-cover

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: LPCM 2.0 (48 kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English, French
  •  Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Running Time: 41 minutes
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Studio: Champs Hill Records
  • Blu-ray Release Date: April 30, 2013
  • List Price: $39.99

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(The below TheaterByte screen captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray Discs and losslessly compressed in the PNG format. There should be no loss of picture quality with this format. All screen captures should be regarded only as an approximation of the full capabilities of the Blu-ray format.

The Performance

[Rating:4.5/5]

title

La Voix Humaine is one of the most personal operas ever composed, featuring a sole soprano, in this case the brilliant Dame Felicity Lott. The unnamed woman phones a lover who is about to leave her to marry another women. A microcosm of life and a close-up take on relationships, this intense work uses the emotion-laden text of playwright Jean Cocteau against a spare score (in this case  for a piano) by Francis Poulenc. During the phone conversation, we gather that the woman caller has attempted suicide while her relationship with a man whom we never see or hear has deteriorated. The one-sided conversation is interrupted periodically since this is a party line, adding to the woman’s frustration.

The novel aspect of this 2011performance at the Champs Hill Music Room in Sussex, UK is that it is the one first to be recorded with solo piano accompaniment. As pianist Graham Johnson relates in his superb notes, both he and soprano Lott have a longstanding familiarity with this work. This becomes quite clear in the way that Lott runs the gamut of her emotions, ranging from giddy exhilaration to dark depression.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

caress

The film quality is superb with a raft of closeups, underscoring the personal nature of the work. The camera shifts on occasion showing the spare and quasi-claustrophobic character of the woman’s living room.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

floor

While the only soundtrack is 2-channel LPCM, its extended 24-bit word length gives us a crisp and atmospheric presentation.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:1/5]

stand

We get a nice booklet with pianist Johnson’s essay as previously noted, a background piece on Poulenc and this opera, and some on-location photos and bios of both performers.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

cord

La Voix Humaine is a poignant psycho-drama that depicts the demise of a love affair and disturbs us with its portrayal of a woman descending into depression and despair.  What is amazing in this performance is how Mme Lott, 64 years old at the time of this recording, conveys through her voice and facial expression and body language the essence of a much younger woman. She is a consummate singing actress, an essential attribute for this solo vocal tour de force. When Lott sings “Ce fil, c’est le dernier qui me rattache encore à nous…” (This telephone cord is the only thing that still attaches me to us), the heartache and pathos is overwhelming.  Even more chilling are the woman’s final uttering “Je t’aime, je t’aime” (I love you, I love), with the phone’s cord wrapped around her neck, as the mouthpiece descends to the floor. Graham Johnson’s piano is discretely located in the background, adding perfect touches in a supporting role. If I had one quibble with this disc it is that at 41-minutes running time and at full price, we do not get more for our money. For a DVD alternative with orchestra, there is the VAI recording with Carole Farley that includes Gian Carlo Menotti’s appropriate bookend piece, The Telephone. In sum, viewers will not get a better rendition of this work and, with only voice and piano, one that is more intimate.

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1/5]

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