Five Facts to Know about Gian Carlo Menotti and 'The Consul'

March 27, 2019

Set around an enigmatic consulate in Eastern Europe, Gian Carlo Menotti’s three-act opera The Consul constructs a gloomy world in which a family’s desperate attempt to flee totalitarian rule is met with an indifferent bureaucracy. Here are some interesting tidbits to know about both the opera and Menotti before seeing The Consul, running March 28 through March 31 as part of Boston Conservatory at Berklee’s Center Stage collection.

Gian Carlo Menotti laying on a bed, in a suit, working on a conductor's score

1. The Consul tells a timely story about bureaucracy and immigration during turbulent times.

Gian Carlo Menotti was himself an Italian immigrant to the United States, and wrote the opera as a response to refugees fleeing Europe after World War II. As an Italian citizen living in the U.S. during the war, Menotti was considered an “enemy alien.”

The front and back of the Pulitzer Prize medal

2. The Consul received the 1950 Pulitzer Prize in music, and is the first operatic composition to be given this distinction.

Just five years later, Menotti’s opera The Saint of Bleecker Street was awarded the 1955 Pulitzer Prize in music.

A street sign that says "Broadway"

3. Menotti insisted that the premiere of The Consul take place on Broadway, rather than in a traditional opera house.

Menotti, who described The Consul not as an opera, but as a “music drama,” wanted to make the work accessible to the wider public. On March 1, 1950, The Consul had its first performance at the Schubert Theatre in Philadelphia before opening two weeks later on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York City. There, the opera enjoyed a run of nearly eight months.

A magician's hands holding a top hat and wand

4. For Boston Conservatory’s production, the singers playing the Magician trained with a professional illusionist, and will perform both stage magic and sleight of hand throughout the opera.

In the opera, the Magician is trying to leave the country, but doesn't have any legal documents. He tries to charm the stern Secretary and hopefully impress her with his power of illusion.

Samuel Barber and Gian Carlo Menotti together

5. Menotti’s life and work partner was the renowned composer Samuel Barber.

The two met as teenagers while attending the Curtis Institute of Music. Later in life, Menotti would craft the libretto for Barber's most famous opera, Vanessa, which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1958.

Boston Conservatory at Berklee will present The Consul from Thursday, March 28 through Sunday, March 31 at Boston Conservatory Theater. Learn more and purchase tickets.