Monday, April 11, 2005

Der Konsul

On Friday night I went to see Der Konsul in the Zurich Opera studio. The Consul, by Giancarlo Menotti, started life as a Broadway show and went on to be a mainstay of opera studios everywhere. The Consul is verismo in every sense: the sordid reality of the story line, the not quite modern music and the soaring, dramatic vocal lines.

It is great for opera studios because it has a number of not very difficult parts for all kinds of voices. It sinks or swims on the quality of the singer performing Magda Sorel, a dramatic soprano part.

Magda's husband John has become involved in clandestine political activities and is being hunted by the police. She has turned to the consul of a friendly nation to help her and her family, including John's mother and her sick child, to flee to freedom.

This opera plays in my head in English. The German translation seemed to lack Menotti's love for words, to play with them and feel them in his mouth. The lullaby seemed to be translated literally instead of searching for something similarly poetic. "I shall find for you shells and stars," could be translated as anything.

The staging was excellent. Bareness exactly expresses the feeling here. I fault them only for not bothering to find any real magician's props for the magic scene.

All of the characters were double, sometimes triple cast, so I can't actually tell you who they were. Best were the Magda, Mother, secretary, John, magician. I wish them all well.

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