The Consul was Menotti's first evening-length opera and is widely considered his best. The leading role of Magda (and its featured aria, "To this we've come") provides an excellent showpiece for the right kind of soprano.
Cast of Characters
Secret Police Agent,b
Voice on the Record,s
The Foreign Woman,s
The Magician (Nika Magadoff),t
John Sorel rushes into his apartment; he has been shot in the leg during a revolutionary meeting. He is hidden by his wife Magda and his mother as the secret police enter chasing him. The police agent threatens Magda, but eventually leaves, and John leaves, giving Magda a signal and telling her to go to the consulate to find help for them. She does; there she, and the other people waiting, are faced with the Secretary, who prevents anyone from seeing the Consul, forcing them to fill out endless paperwork which is never quite correct.
In the apartment, several days later; the Mother is playing with Magda and John's son, who is very ill. Magda, worn down by the days in the Consul's waiting room, has a nightmare about the Secretary; when she awakens, the secret police agent arrives to question her again. The signal is given and one of her husband's friends, Assan the glasscutter, gives Magda a message from John; he is hiding in the mountains. When he leaves, Magda realizes that her baby has died.
At the consulate, the magician Nika Magadoff tries to convince the Secretary that his art should be his passport, performing tricks and finally hypnotizing the other waiters to believe they are dancing at a ball. When the secretary again rebuffs Magda, she asks him if there really is a Consul; the Secretary, shaken, tells her that she may see the consul after his current visitor leaves. Someone comes out of the Consul's office; it is the secret police agent. Magda faints.
Several days later, Assan finds Magda at the consulate and tells her that John is coming back to see her; he has heard that his son and mother have died. Magda gives Assan a note for John, saying it will convince him there is no reason to return. The secretary, locking up after everyone has left, is faced with John Sorel. She tells him he has to leave, but he explains that the secret police have followed him and are waiting outside. Soon they enter, and despite the Secretary's protests John is led off. The secretary tells John she will phone his wife; but as the phone rings in the Sorel apartment, Magda is already dead; she has killed herself with the gas from the oven. The figures of her companions from the waiting room return in a ghastly hallucination as she dies.
World premiere Schubert Theater, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania March 1, 1950 Magda: Patricia Neway Mother: Marie Powers
New York premiere Ethel Barrymore Theater, New York, New York March 15, 1950 Magda: Patricia Neway Mother: Marie Powers Secretary: Gloria Lane John: Cornell MacNeil Secret Police Agent: Leon Lishner Lehman Engel, conductor