Don't miss: La voix humaine Christina Campsall as "Elle" in La voix humaine. Photo by Stuart Lowe.

Don't miss: La voix humaine

Jenna Simeonov

This Sunday, January 24th, mezzo-soprano Christina Campsall presents Poulenc’s one-act, one-woman opera, La voix humaine, as part of The Glenn Gould School’s “Free Recitals” series in Mazzoleni Hall. The opera is an adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s play of the same name, and Poulenc worked with him and soprano Denise Duval toward its première in 1959 at the Théâtre National de l’Opéra-Comique in Paris.

Campsall is an emerging singer to watch, and we were lucky to catch her and pianist Brahm Goldhamer in their dress rehearsal performance. She worked with “phenomenal director” Oliver Klöter to create a dense, claustrophobic telling of the one-sided phone conversation between a suicidal woman and her silent, invisible lover. “He was very patient with me,” says Campsall, who admits that Poulenc’s music is challenging, and achieving her level of comfort with it is a long process.

Photo by Stuart Lowe.

Campsall becomes as schizophrenic with her voice as Poulenc is with his score, and though the staging is sparse, it’s easy to get drawn in by her character. The perfect on-the-phone body language, the isolated “oui” and “non” that answer unheard questions, the tension of getting cut off mid-conversation; the piece is completely engrossing, and Campsall gets it.

Her singing is pretty exciting, too. Her sound has always been that of a rich mezzo-soprano, and now she has a soprano-like extension that makes me think of Messaien’s Harawi and Berg’s Lulu. In fact, Campsall tells me that it was mezzo Krisztina Szabó’s performance in Erwartung at the COC that sparked the idea for her to take on a one-woman opera. Campsall is currently a student of the Glenn Gould School, and La voix humaine is about maximizing her opportunities to be onstage. “It’s a performance degree,” she says, “I wanted to perform as much as possible.”

Photo by Stuart Lowe.

Christina Campsall’s La voix humaine is a must-see if you’re in Toronto this weekend. Head over to Mazzoleni Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music on Sunday, January 24th at 8pm. Admission is free (!), and seating will go quickly.



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