Music and Libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti
Sung in English with English Supertitles
In 1950, The New York Times hailed the Broadway premiere of The Consul as “a smash hit” and “an opera of eloquence, momentousness, and intensity of expression…written from the heart, with a blazing sincerity and a passion of human understanding… It is torn out of the life of the present-day world, and poses an issue which mercilessly confronts humanity today. And this is done with a new wedding of the English language with music in a way which is singable, intensely dramatic and poetic by turns, and always of beauty.” Almost 70 years later, Gian Carlo Menotti’s riveting opera still delivers a punch as powerful and timely as its subject matter – the struggle for freedom against oppression, and the maddening nature of unrelenting bureaucracy. Set in an unnamed European city, political dissident John Sorel is on the run from the secret police. After he escapes the country, his devoted wife Magda clashes with the bureaucracy at the Consulate while trying to obtain an exit visa for her family. The emotional high point of the opera comes when Magda, thwarted in her quest for a visa, addresses the Consul’s secretary in “To this we’ve come,” a stirring lament over the world’s indifference to inhumanity and suffering. The suspenseful narrative surprises with several magical touches and is buoyed by a melodic score in which love, hope, and redemption all play their part. The Consul – which won both the Pulitzer Prize in Music and the New York Drama Critic’s Circle Award – remains as timely as when it was written, taking on renewed relevance for contemporary audiences.
Did You Know?
Gian Carlo Menotti wrote The Consul in response to news reports and personal encounters he had with refugees fleeing Europe after World War II. Two stories in particular, taken from the pages of the New York Times, moved him deeply. One involved a group of Jewish refugees who became trapped on a bridge between Austria and Hungary. Based loosely on this article, Menotti wrote an unproduced screenplay for MGM. The story involved refugees trying to flee Austria to Hungary, but without passports or papers, they ended up trapped for a week on a bridge between the two countries. The other story involved Mrs. Sofia Feldy, a 38-year-old Polish immigrant, who hung herself on Ellis Island after being denied entry to the United States. Menotti dramatized the despair, risk and loss of immigrants, inspired by these stories and his own experience as an American immigrant with Italian citizenship labeled as an “enemy alien” during World War II.
This production contains mature themes and is not suitable for young children, but is highly recommended for high-school aged students and older.