Finding the Human Voice in La voix humaine

Haley Stamats, director of La voix humaine, is no stranger to Cedar Rapids Opera. Ms. Stamats first joined us as a high schooler in the chorus, and since then has grown into an incredible singer and stage director in her own right. Here, she shares her thoughts about directing this unique one-woman opera and the answers questions about her own artistic journey.


Finding Elle's Voice

Whether it’s a natural disaster, war or a pandemic, collective grief is something that is familiar to us. Grief is individual to each of us but also something that is shared as a community, as a country, as human beings. How we process it comes out in different ways. In our every day routine, in our relationships with each other. We meet Elle, which translates to “her”, as she grieves the loss of a tumultuous relationship. Using the party line, she tries to call her ex-lover and runs into a series of obstacles along the way. Once she does get ahold of him, we find she is a woman in mental distress as we try to follow her one-sided phone conversation. This La voix depicts Elle as is a wealthy socialite that recently has return from the exodus that happened to Southern France during the occupation of Paris during World War II. After its liberation, she returns to a city she does not recognize. Her decrepit apartment echos of a begone era. And she can’t let go of the lover she had during the war. The challenge with this piece is portraying a woman that is suicidal about the loss of her relationship. How can we tell her story that heightens her grief from not just an individual one but also a collective one? By setting it in post-World War II, my hope is to add to her given circumstances as she returns home to a ransacked apartment in a destroyed city. So, while she grieves her relationship, she also grieves the loss of her lifestyle, her city, and her country. Her lover is only the tip of the iceberg in the cause of her mental instability. How can she return to “normal” after experiencing such tragedy? - Haley Stamats

CROpera: What excites you about directing this piece? Why is this story important now? HS: Grief is something we all share, especially now as we have gone through a pandemic and a natural disaster together in this community. Whatever the given circumstances, we can understand the mental distress that Elle goes through with the loss of her relationship in a world that has experienced great tragedy. My hope is to shine light to mental health awareness by showing the “what if” and starting a conversation about how we can helps those who need it especially during this time of collective grieving. CROpera:How does the language of a piece affect the way your approach it directorially? HS: I’m a text-based director and when I approach a foreign-language piece, it’s no different then when I do an English piece other than it may just take more time in terms of interpreting a line or phrase. I try to translate the text word-for-word as well as cobbling together a closely translated sentence to interpret. Mostly, language can affect a color of a phrase because of a particular connotation of a word. For example, there are many words for “face” in Italian. Two of them being “viso” and “faccia” and both have a different flavor. “Viso” is a little more elegant where as “faccia” is a little harsher because of the hard “CH” sound. We have this in English, too, it’s just more second nature because it’s our native tongue. CROpera: For those of us newer to the Cedar Rapids Opera family (like me!) describe your history with the organization. HS: I consider Cedar Rapids Opera my home company. I grew up in Cedar Rapids. My family is from here. And I started singing in the Cedar Rapids Opera chorus when I was in high school. I went on to assistant direct many of their production and then made my directorial debut with the world premiere of The Grant Wood Operas: Strokes of Genius. This company holds a special place in my heart because they have given me so many opportunities to grow as an artist and continue to support my career. CROpera: You've been away from Iowa on so many adventures! What does it mean to you to come back and direct this piece at this point in your career? HS: It always means a lot to come back to direct something for the community I grew up in. This company gives me the creative freedom to expand my directing eye and try things with the support necessary to grow as an artist. Not many artists have that luxury. My time here also allows me to connect back to my roots which helps ground me when I go off to new experiences.

La voix humaine is sponsored by Scot Brown & Julie Lammers, David Caves, and Dennis & Karla Goettel