Front Row Reviewers – Interview: Wendy Bryn Harmer on Utah Opera’s The Human Voice By Francis Poulenc at the Capitol Theater in Salt Lake City
by Kathryn Olsen
In Salt Lake City‘s Capitol Theatre, Utah Opera is bringing live opera back to the stage this upcoming week. Soprano Wendy Bryn Harmer plays Elle, the lovelorn protagonist of Francis Poulenc’s The Human Voice, and kindly spent some time discussing this one-act opera with us.
Kathryn: I understand that your piece is a one-act play called The Human Voice, in which you perform as Elle. Can you give us background on this opera as well as your involvement in the production?
Wendy: The opera is based on a play by Cocteau, called La Voix Humaine, or The Human Voice, and it’s a woman alone in her apartment on the phone with her lover. They’ve spent years together and it’s her questioning certain aspects of their relationship. The play has been used in several famous films– Ingrid Bergman, or Tilda Swinton just did one that was premiered in Venice–but regardless, there are several versions of the play that have been done live and on film and the Poulenc opera from the ’50s has been updated several times. This is updated in the sense that she’s using a cell phone. When the opera was written, part of the confusion for Elle is that it’s a party line. You don’t have that anymore. So someone keeps interjecting, looking for someone else. We don’t have those anymore, so it was updated a little to involve FaceTime on an iPad and how that gets in the way of communication. The whole point of the piece is that all these little devices that are meant to keep us together are driving us apart.