Jean Cocteau’s La Voix humaine was first performed in 1932 by Berthe Bovy at the Comédie-Française. The one-act play is a long monologue by a woman whose lover has left her and whom she telephones for the last time for three-quarters of an hour. The play is a dramatic tour de force and the task of setting it to music would seem impossible. It was made all the more difficult by the fact that Poulenc and Cocteau had been friends for 40 years. It was Hervé Dugardin, director of Ricordi Paris, who suggested using La Voix humaine as the basis for an opera. Poulenc described himself as ‘A man of song in all its forms’ and became committed to putting the long telephone monologue into verse. He was so successful that Cocteau told him he had created the definitive way of delivering his text. Poulenc’s other challenge was finding a role for the orchestra that would ensure dramatic continuity without losing the clarity of the work. His solution was to use a limited orchestra which opens the act with the ring of the telephone played by the xylophone and goes on to reflect the succession of emotions in the long monologue. La Voix humaine was first played at the Piccola Scala, Milan, then in New York and Edinburgh. The French premiere was in 1959 with Denise Duval, Georges Prêtre leading the orchestra of the Opéra-Comique and with a set and production by Jean Cocteau. The success of the work both among critics and among the public has never waned.