The video above is a 2 minute teaser segment for the production. To watch the full length film go to wno.org.uk/humaine
Soprano: Claire Booth
Piano: Christopher Glynn
Producer: David Massey
Production: Max Budgett, Harry Zundel
Production design: Millie Tennant
Music post production: James Clarke
“This period has shown us the potential of digital work if it is created expressly for that medium. Nobody would seriously suggest that a digital experience can ever replace a live performance, but this is a perfect example of a piece of operatic repertoire that translates well to film and allows for an immersive and intimate experience of the highest quality.”
Aidan Lang, Welsh National Opera General Director
This project, commissioned by the Welsh National Opera, is a filmed adaptation of David Pountney's 5 star production of La Voix Humaine. It was filmed during lockdown and deals with themes of isolation and loneliness. It is a 40 minute, single scene opera, that we filmed in soprano, Claire Booth's bedroom. It successfully delivers the 'liveness' of a stage performance and combines it with the intimacy of a filmed performance.
Claire Booth performs as 'L' in our filmed adaptation of David Pountney's 5 star production of La Voix Humaine
The original was a site-specific production that engaged with the audience directly; set up as a house party with the audience becoming the guests. This concept was adapted to become a Zoom party instead, which allowed us to play with La Voix Humaine’s uncomfortable themes of voyeurism.
The camera angles that we chose give the viewer a feeling that they are spying on 'L'. We kept these angles static and used wide lenses, allowing the viewer the opportunity to take in the scene as you would a live production. We wanted to avoid dictating where the viewer should specifically look. We were aiming to give the audience as close a feeling to a live experience as we could, whilst using filmic techniques to enhance that experience.
Equipped with a live video and audio feed, pianist Christopher Glynn plays along live as Clair Booth performs in her bedroom upstairs
This performance relied on the pianist and singer reacting instinctively to one another's performance, so It was important to us that the music and singing were delivered 'live' and that we did not use pre-recorded music. In order to deliver this, we had to position the pianist far enough away from the singer, to avoid an audio 'bleed' on the recording. We did this by positioning him downstairs with an earpiece and a monitor, so he could hear and see the singer. Similarly, the singer wore a disguised earpiece in order to hear the piano music. The effect of this is clearly apparent and creates a powerful and emotional impact in the final product.
Harry Zundel monitors Claire's performances from a covid-safe distance – outside on the landing!
In a makeshift production studio on the landing outside of Claire's bedroom, the skeleton production crew monitored and recorded the performances. This setup was both essential for delivering on covid-safe guidelines but also enhanced Claire's experience of being alone and isolated during her performance. We relied at first on walkie-talkies to communicate, but soon realised that shouting was more productive!
Camera angles setup like spy cameras around 'L's bedroom
La Voix Humaine is available from the WNO and Wales Millennium Centre websites, and on WNO’s YouTube channel, for six months from Sunday 25 October 2020 at 6pm.
Listen to Claire Booth talking about La Voix Humaine on BBC Radio 3