When we decided to include Gian Carlo Menotti’s 1950 Pulitzer Prize winning opera, The Consul, in this year’s season, I knew we would need to treat it with a more theatrical approach than anything we’ve produced before. Luckily, we have the multi-talented Courtney Kalbacker in our network as our Director of Community Engagement. Courtney is also a gifted stage director, and she jumped at the chance to create a semi-staged production for The Consul.
I spoke with Courtney this week about her thoughts about this wonderful opera, and her approach to staging it. I can’t wait to see the finished product on November 22nd and 24th!
Julia Cooke, Artistic and General Director
JC: What draws you to this opera?
CK: What really draws me to The Consul is the music-drama. Menotti's wonderful synthesis of sound and emotion that reaches into your heart and breaks it into a million pieces. He is a master of theatrical music and this talent is on full display in this opera.
JC: Do you find it challenging? Rewarding?
CK: As a director, it is challenging for two reasons. One is common to many operas: outdated language and/or situations that can distance an audience from the action. As a director, sometimes you need to find a way to justify odd text or predicaments, and also to find a way to deal with the limits of semi-staging. However, I love working within tight parameters and this actually helps me focus as a creative problem-solver! The second challenge is more personal. As a new mother, I find the tragedy that surrounds Magda's sickly infant son almost overwhelming. I have yet to be able to hear these parts of the opera without being overcome with emotion myself. Hopefully by opening night I'll be so focused on running the show I'll be able to call the cues without grabbing a tissue!
JC: How do you feel about opera in English?
CK: I love opera in English because as our vernacular we are able to hear meaning immediately. In addition, some new potential opera lovers are more easily persuaded to try opera if it is in their own language. Lastly, the text of an opera in English also becomes more easily embedded in our memories as well - I promise you that you will never think of the word "papers" the same way after you hear this opera!
JC: What is something everyone should know about The Consul?
CK: Everyone should know a couple of things about this opera. First, a fun fact: The Consul was the first opera to ever win the Pulitzer Prize (1950.) Second, this composition is drawn from real experiences of Menotti and other refugees fleeing Europe during World War II. Menotti, as an Italian living in the United States during the war, would have been considered an "enemy alien." As a gay man (whose life partner was composer Samuel Barber) he would have known that anxiety of ostracization as well. Menotti felt he needed to speak out about the injustices he saw happening during the war and chose the powerful medium of opera to share these heartbreaking stories. I hope you have the opportunity to step into this piece with us at BCO this month. It is an experience you will never forget - and this is exactly what Menotti intended.
Join us on November 22nd (7:30pm) or November 24th (3pm) for this incredible opera. To learn about our amazing cast, and for more information and tickets, visit http://www.baltimoreconcertopera.com/the-consul
See you at the opera!