La voix humaine and Le château de Barbe-Bleue


La voix humaine (English: The Human Voice) and Le château de Barbe-Bleue (Hungraian: A kékszakállú herceg vára; English: Bluebeard's Castle) double bill. Directed 2015 by Krzysztof Warlikowski at the Palais Garnier:

  • Poulenc La voix humaine is a one-act opera to a libretto by Jean Cocteau. Stars Barbara Hannigan (Her) and Claude Bardouil (Him, a silent role). Sung in French.

  • Bartók Le château de Barbe-Bleue is a one-act opera to a libretto by Béla Balázs. Stars John Relyea (Duc) and Ekaterina Gubanova (Judith). Sung in Hungarian.

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 (La voix) and a perhaps the most famous two-voice opera (Barbe). It appears the director has spiced up La 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 unique. 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 La voix. Mellor concludes that this is an OK staging of Barbe and a poor staging of La 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:

In July, 2019, this title was available in the USA via Amazon from a single third party vendor at a rather high price. It was available from Presto Classical for less. Shop carefully.