City Opera’s THE HUMAN VOICE starts streaming today

A vivid new production of a masterpiece.

“The Human Voice” released at
City Opera Online

The agony of failed love. The coldness of the machine. The voice of humanity.

City Opera Vancouver’s first online opera will be released on Monday 11 January 2021, beginning at noon. It is free to all, on our YouTube channel.

Starring Canadian tenor Isaiah Bell, with pianist Roger Parton, it will initially appear as a series of seven webisodes, each going up at noon for a week.

On 18 January 2021, it will appear entire, and stay online for one year. The complete chamber opera runs 49:00, and was filmed at The Historic Cultch Theatre.

The Human Voice is a contemporary adaptation of the 1928 stage play by Jean Cocteau, and the 1958 chamber opera by Francis Poulenc.

It is a radically new production of La Voix Humaine. In the original, a lone soprano sings into a telephone, frustrated by a technology that fails and distances and impairs any prospect of intimacy. Her lover advises that he has found another woman.

The Human Voice presents a flip of gender, and a metaphor of global pandemic. Now in English, Isaiah Bell sings to his male lover, and into the abyss of COVID. In a Zoom call impaired by lag and freeze and dropped signals, technology is once again enemy to intimacy. The agony of failed love is heightened by the necessity of distance, by the anaesthetic of the machine.

The Human Voice is a powerful, daring, and memorable invention, engaging one piano and one singer and an audience that cannot be assembled any other way.

Said Isaiah Bell, “In our shiny world, imitations of life, and imitations of connection, can be more convincing to the eye than their living counterparts. But our bodies, or whatever the part of us is that needs the real thing, are hopelessly old-fashioned. As long as we live in the facsimile, stuck on how things should be or could be, we live undernourished, missing out on real life as it unspools between dropped phone calls, while we are waiting for everything to go back to normal…”

The Human Voice is the first in a series of chamber operas to appear at City Opera Online. Available here: . 

Its promotional video is here.


City Opera Vancouver 
Isaiah Bell
The Human Voice
a story for our times

Francis Poulenc
Music (1958)

Jean Cocteau
Text (1928, 1958)

Isaiah Bell
English translation and adaptation (©2020)

Roger Parton

Chris Randle
Editor and Videographer

Andrew Smith
Editor and Recordist / Vancouver Live Sound

Sophie Tang
Lighting Designer

Trudy Chalmers
Stage Manager

Filmed at the Historic Cultch Theatre, Vancouver, November 2020

We thank…

Lee and Russell Anthony
British Columbia Arts Council
City of Vancouver Cultural Services
The Griffin Foundation
The Hamber Foundation
Mari Hahn
the memory of John Giuliani
Nora Kelly
Anna and John Kirkbride
Janet and Derwyn Lea
Fred Leonard
The McLean Foundation, Toronto
Colin Miles and Winnie Nowell
Robert Milne, Victoria
John and Margaret Newton
Wayne Richards
Alexandra Volkoff
Donna Wong-Juliani


Ethel Whitty, President
Charles Barber, Artistic Director
Trudy Chalmers, General Manager

“I Have Plenty of Inner Resources”

“I Got What I Deserved”

“I’m Not in the Habit of Sleeping Alone”

“I’ve Been Sick to My Stomach”

“Nothing Much Has Mattered in My Life Except You”

“Without Your Body Here”

“So Here We Are”