The Consul

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The Consul is an opera in three acts with music and libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti, his first full-length opera.

Its first performance was on March 1, 1950 in Philadelphia with Patricia Neway as the lead heroine Magda Sorel, Gloria Lane as the secretary of the consulate, Marie Powers as the mother, and Andrew McKinley as the magician Nika Magadoff. The opera opened two weeks later in New York City where it enjoyed a successful opening run of nearly eight months.

Neway (alternating with Yul Brynner's sister, Vera Brynner) also led the Broadway cast, this time with Rosemary Kuhlmann as the secretary of the consulate.[1][2]

Neway, Kuhlmann, and Powers also performed these roles in the UK at the Cambridge Theatre in February 1951, with Norman Kelley playing the role of the magician Nika.[3][4] For the opera's La Scala debut in January 1951, Powers and McKinley reprised their roles, and Clara Petrella portrayed Magda.[5]

Zechariah Chafee, Jr. noted the topicality of the opera by analogy to the real-life situations of how non-American scientists were hindered from entering the United States in the early 1950s.[6]

For The Consul, Menotti won the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Music and also the 1950 New York Drama Critics' Circle award for Best Musical.[7]

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere cast[8]
1 March 1950
(Conductor: Lehman Engel)
Magda Sorel soprano Patricia Neway
Secretary of the consulate mezzo-soprano Gloria Lane
Mother, mother to John Sorel contralto Marie Powers
John Sorel, husband to Magda baritone Cornell MacNeil
Secret Police Agent, villain bass Leon Lishner
Nika Magadoff, magician tenor Andrew McKinley
Mr. Kofner bass-baritone George Jongeyans
Foreign Woman soprano Maria Marlo
Anna Gomez soprano Maria Andreassi
Vera Boronel contralto Lydia Summers
Assan baritone Francis Monachino

Synopsis[edit]

Place: An unidentified European totalitarian country.

Act 1[edit]

Scene 1

The political dissident John Sorel is on the run from the secret police. At his home, his wife Magda and his mother hide him. The police arrive and search, but cannot find him. John says that he will escape to the border, and tells Magda to apply for a visa to leave the country. He will wait to cross the border until his wife, mother and child are safe.

Scene 2: The consul's office

Many people are waiting to obtain visas. Magda applies and joins the crowd, but the secretary cannot promise anything.

Act 2[edit]

Scene 1

The child is ill, and John's mother sings to comfort the child. The police try to extract information from Magda on her husband's compatriots, but she refuses. A message then arrives from John urging Magda to hurry with the visa.

Scene 2: The consulate

Magda is desperate to see the consul. A magician, waiting for a visa, attempts to impress the secretary by performing magic tricks and hypnotizing the rest of the room into believing they are at a ball, but he only ends up frightening her. The secretary says that she may see him once an "important visitor" has finished his business. This visitor proves to be the chief of police. Magda's fears increase.

Act 3[edit]

Scene 1

Magda's child and mother-in-law have died. At the consul's office, Magda learns that John is planning to risk his life and return for her. Magda thinks of suicide to try to protect John, and leaves the consulate. As the office is about to shut down for the day, John suddenly arrives, but with the police in pursuit. The police capture John, and the secretary gets on the phone to try to contact Magda.

Scene 2

Despondent, and with visions of her past crowding her mind, Magda turns on the gas in the oven to kill herself. Her telephone then rings, the secretary trying in vain to contact her.

Recordings[edit]

  • Newport Classic NPD 85645/2
  • Chandos CHAN 9706: Susan Bullock, Louis Otey, Jacalyn Kreitzer, Charles Austin, Victoria Livengood, Herbert Eckhoff, Giovanna Manci, Robin Blitch Wiper, Malin Fritz, John Horton Murray, Graeme Broadbent; Spoleto Festival Orchestra; Richard Hickox, conductor[9]
  • Naxos Historical 8.112023-24: Patricia Neway (Magda), Cornell MacNeil (John) and Marie Powers (Mother), conductor: Lehman Engel.[10] This recording was made a month after the premiere with the original cast and conductor.
  • Video: Neway, Ludgin; Torkanowsky, Dalrymple, 1960 (VAI)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Smith, Cecil, "The Consul. Musical Drama in Three Acts" (December 1950). Notes (2nd Ser.), 8 (1): pp. 125–126.
  2. ^ The Consul, Internet Broadway Database, accessed January 20, 2013
  3. ^ "A.J." (no full name given), Review of The Consul (1951). The Musical Times, 92 (1298): p. 166.
  4. ^ Benjamin, Arthur, "The Consul" (July 1951). Music & Letters, 32 (3): pp. 247–251.
  5. ^ "La Scala Offers Menotti's 'Consul' With 2 Members of Original Cast". The New York Times. January 23, 1951. 
  6. ^ Chafee, Zechariah, Jr., "Book Reviews: American Visa Policy and Foreign Scientists" (March 1953). University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 101 (5): pp. 703–713.
  7. ^ Heinz Dietrich Fischer (2010). The Pulitzer Prize Winners for Music: Composer Biographies, Premiere Programs and Jury Reports. Peter Lang. p. 32. 
  8. ^ "Almanacco 1 March 1950" (in Italian). AmadeusOnline. Retrieved 25 October 2010. 
  9. ^ Pines, Roger (2000). "The Consul. Gian Carlo Menotti". The Opera Quarterly 16 (4): 696–699. doi:10.1093/oq/16.4.696. Retrieved 2007-09-28. 
  10. ^ "Menotti, G.: The Consul / Amelia al ballo". Naxos Historical. Retrieved 25 October 2010. 

Further reading[edit]