Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Fine Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Noemi Lugo


In 1959 French composer Francis Poulenc composed the opera La Voix humaine based on Jean Cocteau’s original play (1928). La Voix humaine is a one-act opera for soprano. The main character, Elle, spends the opera on the phone with her ex-lover who is marrying another the next day. Many musicians believe this opera is difficult or impossible to update, due to the use of the telephone and its dated operator system, which is a large aspect of the action and drama.

This document provides the reader with a new interpretation of the opera with modern technology. Chapter One begins with a brief history of the creators of the play and opera, Jean Cocteau and Francis Poulenc. It delves into their early years, leading up to their time involved with Les Six. Chapter Two discusses Cocteau’s vision and creation of the play and continues to his collaboration with Poulenc on the opera. Chapter Three offers a view of how the phone plays a large part in the play, continues to the telephone’s function during the time period the play was written, and concludes with a look at how current technology may be applied to an updated interpretation of the opera. Chapter Four provides a look at the sections of the libretto that is linked to the telephone, thus making its use unavoidable in certain portions of the opera while providing musical examples. It also discusses how the libretto poses a problem with a modern-day telephone system and how to address these issues. Chapter Five presents ways to incorporate the use of an iPad into the second section of the opera, through analysis and interpretation of the text. Chapter Six gives a look into modern research on technology and its effects on mental health, following with how this research can be applied to a modern interpretation of the work and Elle’s untimely suicide due to effects of technology addiction. This chapter also discusses how the text and music support these ideas. Finally, the conclusion summarizes main ideas and their application into the opera.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)