Poulenc Double Bill at Glyndebourne

Lou managed to sort tickets to go back to Glyndebourne on this lovely summer’s day and take in a double bill of very contrasting short pieces by the modern French composer Francis Poulenc.

These ones are both post WW2, although he was writing inter-war. La voix humaine is an adaptation of a celebrated monologue of the same name by his friend Jean Cocteau. It’s an example of early thought about our dependency on the telephone. It’s about independence and codependency. It’s about a woman having her last phone conversation with a recently finished amour. She has been sleeping with her phone as it is her connection to him. Towards the end she wraps the cord around her neck. This is a strange, tender, hard piece of opera and story. It’s rooted into banal details of life and love. Most of us in the audience were talking afterwards about how we found reflections in our own romantic past.

Stephanie Doustrac sang a rare turn. It’s just her, on a precarious looking hydraulic tilting stage, with complicated splintered text sung soprano in French. Unlike the cliche of opera singers, she was in total control of her movement as she sung. Her instrument body was in tune but connected. Soft bare feet, very close to the edge of a big drop, trusted to be there while carrying this emotional weight and walking backwards. Despite what I’m sure it says in the risk assessment, she did no accidental walking off the edge. I trusted her enough that I could lost in the story and just let my stagebrain witness the realities.

Lou has uncovered that she is the great-grand niece of Poulenc. A lovely family continuation there as well then, for her to be bringing this piece with such integrity to Glyndebourne. That was the first half. In near darkness, a beautiful young woman triggering us all about when we have been too dependent on our lovers – when we have sublimated ourselves into them or ceded too much to the idea of who they are.

Interval. We all pour into the gardens. The interval is deliberately VERY LONG at Glyndebourne as it’s very much part of the experience. Everybody brings a picnic and they scatter through the beautiful gardens. We’ve all been mildly traumatised by the honesty we’ve just witnessed. But most of us know what’s to come.

*pop* say the corks, all round the gardens. *glug* go the audience.

And then we all file in again for part two. Les Mamelles de Tiresias. The boobs of Tiresias. You might think it’s a drawn out Greek myth piece about the hermaphrodite prophet, but it really isn’t. It’s a ridiculous and very funny spit piece about how we kept being told we all need to have babies after the war – (and we all know how that ended up). Shortly after it started, when her boobies detached and began floating around in the air, we all relaxed into knowing this was very much not a heavy piece like the first one had been. Great costume and makeup, great lighting and a really stylish execution made me properly see what it is that people pay for when they put down the asking price for tickets to this place. It’s a whole package. What a chance to see these reasonably obscure French thought pieces staged with great consideration and a huge budget, and embodied by confident and competent performers. It’s a special place, and also it was just great to get out the house and hang out with Lou for the first time since Greece.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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