The Consul

The Consul
Opera by Gian Carlo Menotti
The composer in 1944
LibrettistGian Carlo Menotti
March 1, 1950 (1950-03-01)
Schubert Theatre, Philadelphia

The Consul is an opera in three acts with music and libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti, his first full-length opera.

Performance history

Its first performance was on March 1, 1950 at the Schubert Theatre in Philadelphia[1] with Patricia Neway as the lead heroine Magda Sorel, Gloria Lane as the secretary of the consulate, Marie Powers as the mother, and Andrew McKinley as the magician Nika Magadoff. The opera opened two weeks later at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York City where it enjoyed a run of nearly eight months.[2]

Neway (alternating with Yul Brynner's sister, Vera Brynner) also led the Broadway cast, this time with Rosemary Kuhlmann as the secretary of the consulate.[3][4]

Neway, Kuhlmann, and Powers also performed these roles in the UK at the Cambridge Theatre in February 1951, with Norman Kelley playing the role of the magician Nika.[5][6] For the opera's La Scala debut in January 1951, Powers and McKinley reprised their roles, and Clara Petrella portrayed Magda.[7]

Zechariah Chafee, Jr. noted the topicality of the opera by analogy to the real-life situations of how non-American scientists were hindered from entering the United States in the early 1950s.[8]

For The Consul, Menotti won the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Music and also the 1950 New York Drama Critics' Circle award for Best Musical.[9]


RoleVoice typePremiere cast, 1 March 1950[10]
(Conductor: Lehman Engel)
Magda SorelsopranoPatricia Neway
Secretary of the consulatemezzo-sopranoGloria Lane
Mother, mother to John SorelcontraltoMarie Powers
John Sorel, husband to MagdabaritoneCornell MacNeil
Secret Police AgentbassLeon Lishner
Nika Magadoff, magiciantenorAndrew McKinley
Mr. Kofnerbass-baritoneGeorge Jongejans[2]
Foreign WomansopranoMaria Marlo
Anna GomezsopranoMaria Andreassi
Vera BoronelcontraltoLydia Summers
AssanbaritoneFrancis Monachino
First Police Agentbass-baritoneChester Watson


Place: An unidentified European totalitarian country.

Act 1

Scene 1

The political dissident John Sorel is on the run from the secret police. At his home, his wife Magda and his mother hide him. The police arrive and search, but cannot find him. John says that he will escape to the border, and tells Magda to go to the consul and apply for a visa to leave the country. He will wait to cross the border until his wife, mother and child are safe.

Scene 2: The consul's office

Many people are waiting to obtain visas. Magda applies and joins the crowd, but the secretary cannot promise anything. Much specific paperwork is needed, and obtaining a visa is a long process. The same people wait at the consul's office day after day without approval of a visa.

Act 2

Scene 1

The child is ill, and John's mother sings to comfort the child. The police try to extract information from Magda on her husband's compatriots, but she refuses. A message then arrives from John urging Magda to hurry with the visa.

Scene 2: The consulate

Magda is desperate to see the consul. A magician, waiting for a visa, attempts to impress the secretary by performing magic tricks and hypnotizing the rest of the room into believing they are at a ball, but he only ends up frightening her. Magda, after repeated visits, erupts in an anguished rant at the secretary, who says that she may see the consul once an "important visitor" has finished his business. This visitor proves to be the chief of police and Magda flees in terror.

Act 3

Scene 1

Magda's child and mother-in-law have died. At the consul's office, Magda learns that John is planning to risk his life and return for her. A wealthy woman arrives and is immediately given a visa. Magda thinks of suicide to try to protect John, and leaves the consulate. As the office is about to shut down for the day, John suddenly arrives, but with the police in pursuit. The police capture John, and the secretary gets on the phone to try to contact Magda.

Scene 2

Despondent, and with visions of her past crowding her mind, Magda turns on the gas in the oven to kill herself. Her telephone then rings, the secretary trying in vain to contact her.


  • Newport Classic NPD 85645/2
  • Chandos CHAN 9706: Susan Bullock, Louis Otey, Jacalyn Kreitzer, Charles Austin, Victoria Livengood, Herbert Eckhoff, Giovanna Manci, Robin Blitch Wiper, Malin Fritz, John Horton Murray, Graeme Broadbent; Spoleto Festival Orchestra; Richard Hickox, conductor[11]
  • Naxos Historical 8.112023-24: Patricia Neway (Magda), Cornell MacNeil (John) and Marie Powers (Mother), conductor: Lehman Engel.[12] This recording was made a month after the premiere with the original cast and conductor.
  • Video: Neway, Ludgin; Torkanowsky, Dalrymple, 1960 (VAI)


  1. ^ John Palmer. The Consul at AllMusic
  2. ^ a b Gerald Martin Bordman; Richard Norton (2010). American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle. Oxford University Press. p. 634. ISBN 9780199729708.
  3. ^ Smith, Cecil, "The Consul. Musical Drama in Three Acts" (December 1950). Notes (2nd Ser.), 8 (1): pp. 125–126.
  4. ^ The Consul at the Internet Broadway Database
  5. ^ "A.J." (no full name given), Review of The Consul (1951). The Musical Times, 92 (1298): p. 166.
  6. ^ Benjamin, Arthur, "The Consul" (July 1951). Music & Letters, 32 (3): pp. 247–251.
  7. ^ "La Scala Offers Menotti's Consul With 2 Members of Original Cast". The New York Times. January 23, 1951.
  8. ^ Chafee, Zechariah, Jr., "Book Reviews: American Visa Policy and Foreign Scientists" (March 1953). University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 101 (5): pp. 703–713.
  9. ^ Heinz Dietrich Fischer (2010). The Pulitzer Prize Winners for Music: Composer Biographies, Premiere Programs and Jury Reports. Peter Lang. p. 32.
  10. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "The Consul, 1 March 1950". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  11. ^ Pines, Roger (2000). "The Consul. Gian Carlo Menotti". The Opera Quarterly. 16 (4): 696–699. doi:10.1093/oq/16.4.696. Retrieved 2007-09-28.
  12. ^ "Menotti, G.: The Consul / Amelia al ballo". Naxos Historical. Retrieved 25 October 2010.

Further reading

  • Warrack, John and Ewan West, The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, (1992)ISBN 0-19-869164-5

Media files used on this page

Author/Creator: Javitomad, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
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Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti.
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Obverse and reverse sides of the gold Pulitzer Prize for Public Service medal, which also serves as a symbol of the Pulitzer Prizes in general.