Menotti's Consul at Holland Park

By Hall, George | Musical Opinion, January 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

Menotti's Consul at Holland Park


Hall, George, Musical Opinion


It is good to see that Opera Holland Park's contribution to the 1999 Summer Season of lyric theatre in the West Kensington open-air venue has once again extended to the unfamiliar. Gian Carlo Menotti's The Consul, which I saw on 27 July, is, of course, a famous work, but one infrequently performed in Britain, where the composer has never enjoyed a high critical reputation, despite having made his home in Scotland for many years.

The opera dates from 1950, and Menotti's own libretto focuses on the plight of political refugees unable to leave their country because of the bureaucratic red tape that surrounds Exit Visas. He personalises this in the character of Magda Sorel, wife of a freedom fighter in an unnamed but presumably European country, whose desperate but unsuccessful attempts to obtain a Visa at the Consulate of another state, again unnamed, lead her finally to take her own life. Given the year Europe hasjust lived through, the subject is as timeless as ever but its specific atmosphere is of the post-war, cold war years, and Simon Callow's naturalistic and at times rather fussy production made no attempt to update it or add pointless directorial persiflage....

Despite the validity of the subject, Menotti's libretto too often descends into the world of cliche to be taken absolutely seriously, -and several -of his characterisations remain on the one-dimensional level: the villainous Secret Police Agent, played by Anthony Marber; the Mother herself, or the Magician in the Consulate, whose tricks and indeed entire persona quickly become tiresome. …

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