Mr. Menotti's The Consul was first performed in 1950. The story takes place in an unnamed European country, where John Sorel, a political dissident, is forced to escape the Secret Police of his country's oppressive regime, and his wife Magda must jump the bureaucratic hurdles necessary to obtain a visa to emigrate to the country where Sorel expects to find protection. Needless to say, it doesn't end happily.
Photo by Michael Schweikardt
Vocally there was not a dud in the bunch. The standout of any successful production of The Consul is going to be Magda Sorel, and I have to say it holds true with this production. Lina Tertriani is a lovely young soprano, and quite equal to the vocal challenges of the role, although there were times in Act I when the orchestra overpowered her. She was showered with well-deserved shouts of "Brava!" at the conclusion of her aria "To this we've come". This scene gave us her most committed acting. At some other times she seemed to interact dramatically with the conductor more than her fellow cast members.
Another standout was Audrey Babcock as the Secretary. Her singing was beautiful and her acting showed a great spark. She quite effectively showed that the prim and indifferent persona of the Secretary was not her only persona. Joyce Castle's Mother also gave us the strong performance of a veteran performer, one who has lived with this role a number of times. Her Lullaby in Act II was stunning, and the trio between the Mother, Magda and John in Act I took my breath away. Nicholas Pallesen sang the role of John Sorel beautifully and gave us a picture of his conflict between duty to his family and duty to his political ideals. Smaller roles were very well filled by members of Opera NJ's Victoria J. Mastrobuono Emerging Artists Program. Of these Nathan Wilson was a standout as Mr. Kofner.
In the pit was Joel Revzen with the New Jersey Symphony Chamber Orchestra. I've said before that I tend to notice an orchestra more if there are problems than if they are playing superbly, and I have to say that only a few times in Act I did it seem as if they overpowered the singers. Otherwise the sound was beautiful and lush, and Mr. Revzen seemed to communicate with the singers well. Stage director was Michael Unger. I give him kudos for some excellent choreography of stage motion, and for the remarkably smooth and well-rehearsed scene changes executed by lesser cast members. As my opera-going companion remarked, however, those were his strengths. My friend wanted more connected, more committed acting from some of the singers, and said he had the feeling that those who excelled in that department likely would do so under any director.
After a dinner at a local micro-brewery restaurant, where the aforementioned companion, who is well over 30, was asked for identification when ordering beer but I was not--not that I'm bitter!--we returned to the McCarter Theatre for a staged reading of The Family Room, a new opera by composer Thomas Pasatieri and librettist Daphne Malfitano, starring sopranos Lauren Flanigan and Catherine Malfitano. (The librettist is an accomplished writer, and also the daughter of the soprano.) Composer, librettist, stars and others involved generously took part in a question and answer session after the 70-minute single act was over.
The story is of two women living alone in a shabby room, speaking about homey scenes of family life that are such a contrast to the current conditions, the audience must wonder what is fantasy and what is reality. Although by the end of the opera we have learned a lot we didn't expect to learn about these women and their lives, librettist Daphne Malfitano made it clear in the question and answer session that audience members are expected to draw their own conclusions.
So willing am I to serve you, my adoring public, that I braved the indignity of a trip to New Jersey. (In truth it was a terrific day, but we won't talk about that.) All I ask in return is that you click on the advertising links and do the Amazon.com shopping you already do starting at my store. Is that so much?