La Voix humaine and Le Château de Barbe-Bleue


Double feature: (1) La Voix humaine (English: The Human Voice) opera by Francis Poulenc to a libretto by Jean Cocteau and (2) Le Château de Barbe-Bleue (Hungraian: A kékszakállú herceg vára; English: Bluebeard's Castle) opera by Béla Bartók to a libretto by Béla Balázs. Directed in 2015 by Krzysztof Warlikowski at the Palais Garnier. La Voix humaine stars Barbara Hannigan (Her) and Claude Bardouil (Him, a silent role); Le Château de Barbe-Bleue stars John Relyea (Duc) and Ekaterina Gubanova (Judith). Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the Paris Opera Orchestra.  Set and costume design by Małgorzaty Szczęśniak; lighting design by Felice Ross; video by Denis Guéguin; choreography by Claude Bardouil; dramaturgy by Christian Longchamp; sound recording and mixing by Radio France. Directed for TV by Stéphane Metge; produced by Antoine Perset, Denis Morlière, and Laurent Métivier. Released 2018, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

Few issues in typesetting have caused more exasperation than how to spell the name of the Duke in various languages. Even the artwork on the package is inconsistent, we think.

Here's a double feature of two of the most famous one-act operas, including the most famous one-voice opera (Voix) and a perhaps the most famous two-voice opera (Barbe). It appears the director has spiced up Voix by bringing Him on stage, who in the original staging is never seen or heard because he's on the other end of a telephone call. The box calls this a “unique merger.” Andrew Mellor, writing in the August 2018 Gramophone, pages 86-87, denies that it’s a merger or a unique coupling. Mellor notes that Warlikowski links the two pieces by having footage from the old film Beauty and the Beast (directed by Cocteau) appear in Barbe, which is amusing since Cocteau also wrote the libretto for Voix. Mellor concludes that this is an OK staging of Barbe and a poor staging of Voix, both of which “stand in direct contrast to the conviction of the musical forces.” With this sour review our expectations have been lowered—so when we get around to watching this, we will probably be surprised how good it is.

Here are some clips from the Opéra National de Paris. These probably are not exactly the same as what you see on the BelAir disc:

On September 30, 2018, this title was available in the USA via Amazon from a single third party vendor at an extremely high price. It was available from Presto Classical for much less. So the distribution of this title has gotten messed up. Maybe all will be in order by the time you read this. But if you want to buy this title, be prepared possible to shop carefully.