The Consul
music & libretto by Gian-Carlo Menotti

The Story of The Consul

The Consul is a tragedy of the meek who, far from inheriting the earth, live desperately beneath the burden of tyranny. Set in a nameless European country, the drama tells the story of men and women caught in the red tape and official papers of a Consulate which bars their escape to freedom. The action centers primarily about the lives of Magda and John Sorel, their child, and John’s mother, when circumstances force them to depend on the refuge of the Consulate.

Act I, Scene 1: The apartment home of John Sorel
John Sorel, a freeedom fighter, staggers into his apartment, wounded, and calls for his wife Magda. She and his mother barely have time to hide him when a Secret Police Agent and his henchmen arrive, inquiring about Sorel. The two women reveal nothing, and the Police eventually leave,threatening to return. Once they have gone, John explains to Magda his plan to leave the country, urging her to go to the Consulate office to arrange for her departure with their infant son.

Act I, Scene 2: The Consulate Office
Before being allowed to see the Consul everyone must first pass by the Secretary, who insists that all papers be meticulously filled out. There are already a number of people waiting to see the Consul who have received indifferent treatment from the Secretary. Magda Sorel enters and gets the same — the request for documents, forms filled out, and applications made.

Act II, Scene 1: The Sorel apartment, a month later
Magda’s plight has grown more desperate, as her baby is now quite sick, and she has had no direct word from John. John’s mother tries to comfort Magda and then the baby, singing a lullaby to him. Suddenly a stone is thrown through the window — the prearranged signal for a message from John via Assan, the glasscutter. Magda calls him, but before he can arrive the Secret Police come in again, questioning Magda even more, asking her to reveal the names of John’s associates. Assan is troubled to see the Secret Police there when he arrives, and will only say that John will be arriving soon. After Assan leaves, Magda and the Mother discover that the baby has died. The two women grieve.

Act II, Scene 2: The Consulate Office
The scene in the waiting room grows more bizarre as a Magician demonstrates his tricks to everyone. Magda makes an impassioned plea to the Secretary and when she is rejected turns defiant against the senseless chains of paper that bind all who come to see the Consul. Magda is finally granted an audience with the Consul, but faints when she sees that his previous visitor is the Secret Police Agent.

Act III, Scene 1: The Consulate Office
Magda is again at the Consulate office when Assan finds her to deliver a message that John is threatening to come back. Fearing for his safety, Magda invents a story in a letter guaranteed to make him stay away. She wearily departs, just missing John, who rushes in fleeing from the Police. Despite his plea for a safe haven, John is arrested by the Secret Police, and the Secretary calls Magda to warn her as John is taken away.

Act III, Scene 2: The Sorel apartment
Magda enters her apartment an instant too late for the call. In hopeless resignation she blocks the door and the window and turns on the gas from the oven. As she dies she again sees John, his mother, and the people she has watched in the Consulate office. She hears them urging her to join them, but struggles helplessly, unable to move. The ringing of the phone shatters the dream. Magda makes one more effort to answer. But death has freed her.

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