Ottawa Fringe 2013. La Voix Humaine by Jean Cocteau, music by Francis Poulenc

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

La voix humaine (Human Voice), a one-act opera for one character, with a libretto by Jean Cocteau set to music by Francis Poulenc is misleadingly simple story. A woman abandoned by her lover cannot imagine living on without him, so she talks to him over the telephone (in this case cellphone) an hour before committing suicide. 

Seems like a simple narrative, but is it indeed so? In this work, Cocteau explores human feelings and needs versus realities of love, relationships and communication. The only tools to convey ideas are voice and facial expressions.  It takes an excellent singer and a gifted actress to revive the desperation and agony of a woman in the last hour of her life. Luckily for the audience, it is Rachel Krehm who is trusted with this extremely demanding role. 

From the very first moment when she enters the stage, the magic begins. Every note sang, every move made, as well as the transformations of her face tell the story about a variety of moods: desolation, love, longing, fear, and many more. A whole lifetime passed in front of spectators’ eyes during that hour – a life of happiness, loss and inability to reach the loved one by her love and desire, is told with great conviction and passion. The audience is drawn into her last moments, living them with her.

Rachel Krehm lures us into her character’s life, demanding to share this experience with us, and it is impossible to resist her. It was perfectly paced, perfectly sung and played on the piano, and well directed. A special Fringe moment.   

Opera Five

Toronto, Ontario

Rachel Krehm (as Elle)

Accompanied on piano by Patrick Hansen

Directed by Aria Umezawa


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