Gramophone Editor's Choice & DVD of the Month

Menotti's 1947 curtain-raiser about the girl who can't be torn away from the telephone makes an ideal opera for television. While soprano Carole Farley as Lucy gets three incoming calls -each presented as an aria- Russell Smyth as Ben tries to propose marriage. In the end, the only way he can get her attention is to go to the local diner and call her on a pay-phone. His look of bewildered exasperation as she gabbles on with her friends now seems very up-to-date. Who has not witnessed similar scenes, one half of a duo twiddling their thumbs as their partner natters on a mobile? The setting for Poulenc's monodrama is very well-detailed, suggesting the emptiness of the woman's life, the bottle of pills on the table, the bathroom door ajar. Sound and picture are excellent; José Serebrier and the SCO enter into all the light-heartedness of the Menotti, and hold back until the big orchestral climaxes in the Poulenc. I doubt if a better version of The Telephone will ever come along.

Patrick O'Connor / Gramophone


VAI has combined two "telephone operas", one a comedy, one a tragedy, into a winning package. Poulenc's monodrama is almost impossible to effectively stage and for the audience to fully appreciate in a theater, so delicate, so intimate is the opera. Filming the opera as a movie rather than filming a stage production provides the perfect way to see the opera. Within the first few seconds of the opera the visuals define the situation: love and death. By concentration on The Woman's face with the aid of the English subtitles one can become deeply involved with the drama. The camera rarely leaves The Woman's face. Carole Farley is stunning in the role. Her body language and specifically her facial acting are thoroughly human, emotionally gripping. The viewer can practically read The Woman's mind. Farley is excellently supported by Serebrier--a first-class collaborative effort.

Menotti's two- person comedy is also difficult to stage and appreciate in a theater. Here again, film is the perfect solution. Here one can easily sense the sunny, happy ambiance. Here too, Farley is magnificent. Topped with a crown of blond hair and wearing a gaudy dressing gown she careens through the setting, pacing back and forth, appropriately grabbing everything in sight, a busy-body in her own home. She sings every bit as well as in the Poulenc, with phenomenally clear diction. Serebrier again is right on with the accompaniment.

An outstanding production all around.

Charles PARSONS September / October 2006