Tuesday 24 October 2017

Remarkably prescient: Menotti's The Consul revived at Guildhall School

Gian-Carlo Menotti - The Consul - vocal score
Gian-Carlo Menotti's operas seem to be starting to make something of a comeback, having rather fallen out of favour. Whilst there have been recent performances from fringe opera companies, it is heartening to see that Guildhall School of Music and Drama is presenting Menotti's first full-length opera, The Consul at the Silk Street Theatre on 30 October, 1,3 & 6 November 2017, in a production directed by Stephen Medcalf and conducted by Timothy Redmond.

Premiered in 1950 to his own libretto, The Consul was very much the work which launched his career and it won him a Pullitzer Prize. The work was premiered in Philadelphia and then opened on Broadway where it ran for nearly eight months.

A three-act tragedy with a plot which is remarkably prescient given today's climate, the work deals with Magda Sorel whose husband is a dissident in an unnamed country and who struggles to get a visa from the Consul in order to be able to leave and join her husband. The role of Magda was created by the soprano Patricia Neway, who performed the role extensively; whilst on Broadway she alternated in the role with Yul Brynner's sister. Later on in her career, Neway would go on to create the role of the Mother Abbess in Rogers and Hammerstein's Sound of Music. You can see an excerpt from Neway's performance as Magda in the video below, and a televised performance of The Consul with Neway as Magda dating from 1960 is available on DVD.

Though Menotti wrote operas right up until the 1990s, it is his works from the 1940s and 1950s which seem to have the greatest potential to endure. The one-act operas The Medium (1946) and The Telephone (1947) have developed something of a life in contemporary opera theatre, and of course Amahl and the Night Visitors (1951) has remained something of a perennial.

Full details from the Barbican website.

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