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Menotti's urgent appeal for more compassion and humanity is the opera for our times
Gian Carlo Menotti’s 1950 work The Consul – about the desperate wait for a visa – could not be more topical. Menotti’s urgent appeal for more compassion and humanity is the opera for our times.
When her family’s safety is put at risk, Magda Sorel must obtain visas for them to leave the country. Magda is pitted against a bureaucracy that is unrelenting and which has a corrupt and manipulative secret police.
This suspense-filled opera takes place in an anonymous European totalitarian state and is packed with emotion and surprises. Its gripping conclusion and amazing similarities to current events has made it a favourite of contemporary opera lovers, enjoying an eight-month run on Broadway.
We are grateful to the Wiener Library or providing us with original images from their collection to use in this production.
Cast & Creative
In an unidentified totalitarian country the political dissident John Sorel is on the run. His wife Magda and his mother hide him but suddenly the secret police burst into their home. They threaten Magda, but eventually leave before John explains his plans for gaining their safety: Magda must apply for a visa in order to leave the country. In the meantime, John will escape to the border’s edge, where he will hide and wait for his family. A stone-faced Secretary and piles of paperwork cause frustrating delays at the Consulate, where there seems to be no Consul.
At the apartment, John’s mother sings a lullaby to comfort John and Magda’s son, who is very ill. The secret police try to extract information from Magda on her husband's compatriots, but she refuses. Meanwhile, John sends Magda a letter urging her to hurry with the visa. Madga returns to the Consulate. Rebuffed by the Secretary, she asks him if there really is a Consul, and is told that she may see him after his current visitor. Someone comes out of the Consul's office; it is the secret police agent.
Several months later, Magda's child and mother-in-law have died. At the Consulate she learns that John is planning to risk his life and return for her. Knowing that her husband will be captured if he returns, she writes him a note saying that she is going to kill herself. Moments before the Consulate closes for the evening, John bursts through the doors with the police trailing shortly behind. The secretary desperately tries contacting Magda on the phone but she is already dead.
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