The Consul Synopsis: The Story of Gian Carlo Menotti's First Opera

The Story of Gian Carlo Menotti's First Opera

Playing The Consul
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The Consul was composed by Gian Carlo Menotti and made its debut on March 1, 1950, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It would go on to win the New York Drama Critic Circle award as the Best Musical Play of 1950. It would also earn Menotti a Pulitzer Prize. The opera takes place in an anonymous European totalitarian state.

The Consul, ACT 1

On the run from the secret police, dissident John Sorel makes it home without being captured.  With little time for delay, John’s wife Magda and his mother hasten to hide him.  Suddenly, knocks are heard at the door and the police burst into their home to search for John.  They make their way through the house, and thankfully, the leave empty handed.  John emerges from his hiding place and explains his plans for gaining their safety: Magda must apply for a visa in order to leave the country.  Once Magda, their child, and his mother have safely crossed the border, John will join them.  In the meantime, he will escape to the border’s edge where he will hide and wait for them to arrive.

Magda enters the consul’s office only to find a large group of people waiting to get their visas.  She makes her way through the crowd to the front desk and fills out the visa application.  After she hands the paperwork over to the clerk, she turns around and joins the rest of the applicants.  The secretary gathers everyone’s attention and announces that she cannot guarantee anyone will receive their visas.

The Consul, ACT 2

John and Magda’s child has become ill.  While at home, John’s mother sings a lullaby to comfort the child. Magda is approached by a group of policemen who try to extract as much information about John and his compatriots as possible, but Magda remains unshaken and refuses to answer any of their questions. Meanwhile, John, who has been waiting in hiding near the border, sends a letter to Magda imploring her to hurry and get the visa.

Madga returns to the consulate hoping to acquire their much-needed visa.  As she stands in line, a magician waiting for a visa of his own begins performing magic tricks, hoping to impress the secretary and gain favor in getting his application approved.  He performs a hypnotizing routine which has most of the room’s occupants believing they are at a ball. The secretary ends up being more scared than impressed but confesses she will see him once an important visitor has finished his business. It turns out this important visitor is none other than the chief of police. When Magda sees him appear, she becomes more afraid.

The Consul, ACT 3

Months go by and Magda’s child and mother-in-law have passed away. Magda enters the consulate offices once more. While there, she finds out that John is planning to return to her despite the risks. Magda can’t bear the possibility of losing her husband, so she turns to thoughts of suicide and decides to go home. If she is dead, John will have no need to risk is life for her.  Moments before the consulate closes for the evening, John bursts through the doors with the police trailing shortly behind.  When they capture him in the consul’s office, the secretary desperately tries contacting Magda on the phone.

Magda is in a very dark place mentally, having lost her child, mother-in-law, and in all honesty, her husband too, despite the fact that he is alive.  She has tried all she could to get her visa, but with so much time having passed without any advancement in the application process, Madga cannot see a light at the end of the tunnel. She goes into her kitchen and turns on the gas oven with the purpose of killing herself. Meanwhile, her phone rings and rings as the secretary tries to reach her.

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