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Theatre / The Consul

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The Consul is an English-language opera by Gian-Carlo Menotti, first performed in 1950.

The action takes place in an unnamed European Police State, alternating between the home of the protagonist, Magda Sorrel, and a foreign consulate where Magda attempts to obtain an exit visa for her husband John, who is on the run from the secret police.

This work contains examples of:

  • City with No Name: The opera is set in an unnamed city in an unnamed European country.
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  • The Dead Can Dance: In the final scene, Magda (soon to be dead) has a vision in which her mother (already dead) dances with John (not dead yet but obviously doomed).
  • Death of a Child: Magda and John's child falls ill and dies.
  • Downer Ending: Magda's mother-in-law and child die of an illness. Worn down by the consulate's obstructive bureacracy, Magda commits suicide. John is recaptured by the secret police.
  • Driven to Suicide: Magda Sorel, having failed after many visits to get the Secretary to give her something besides paperwork, gasses herself to death at home.
  • Dying Dream: In the final scene, Magda (soon to be dead) has a vision in which her mother (already dead) dances with John (not dead yet but obviously doomed).
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The Secret Police Agent is a bass-baritone, and the main antagonist.
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  • The Ghost: The Consul appears only as a distant, inaudible shadow. As with Godot, the protagonist waits for him in vain.
  • Gratuitous Italian: The record player. The Foreign Woman's lines are all in Italian.
  • Ironic Nursery Rhyme: Mother's Lullaby, sung by John's mother to her ill grandchild.
  • "I Want" Song: "When Shall We See the End of All This?" for the Mother and "To This We've Come" for Magda Sorel.
  • La Résistance: John is involved in one of these, which is the main source of conflict.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The only visible employee of the consulate is a secretary who gives people trying to obtain exit visas an endless series of forms for them to fill out and sign, if the documents she asks them to provide are all in order. Many are made to wait for months on end. The secretary views them as numbers rather than as people with names, because "otherwise, how can one do any work?"
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  • Police State
  • Rummage Fail: The Stage Magician pulls out many things, but, alas, not the papers the Secretary wants.
  • Scare Chord:
    • There is a nasty chord at the climax of the Act II Nightmare Sequence.
    • In the final minute, Magda is rudely awakened from her Dying Dream by the telephone ringing, and each ring is followed by a discordant slam which is the pianistic equivalent of Symbol Swearing (though only loud in comparison to the preceding diminuendo).
  • Stage Magician: Nika Magadoff, one of the other people trying to obtain a visa.
  • Villain Song: The Secret Police Agent has a pretty terrifying aria in the first act, where he attempts to intimidate Magda Sorell into giving up her husband.
  • We Have Ways of Making You Talk: The Secret Police Agent says this to Magda:
    The Police Agent: We have strange ways to make people talk. Oh, not at all the way you may think. All we have to do is to quicken the beat of your heart.