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"It is rare in operatic history that one has the chance to witness first-hand the original interpreters in their respective roles. Such is the case with this miraculous find of Menotti's "The Consul" which features Patricia Neway in her role of Magda Sorel. Let me start by saying that this is an affirming account of great singing actors. It is encouraging to see the total immersion that each performer obtains in their respective roles. Singing and acting combine together here to create a true, honest theatrical experience. The disc also features original cast members Leon Lishner as the Secret Police Agent (also the creator of King Balthazar in "Amahl"), and the tender portrayal of Maria Marlo as the foreign woman. Among the other standouts, Regina Sarfaty gives thrilling dramatic and vocal insight to the icy secretary. (Her meltingly delicate "Hello? Oh, it's you!" is a particularly effective moment, and one of the few displays of humanity in her character). Sarfaty sings the role with ample vocal prowess, (for example, her third act aria "All those faces!") and proves a formidable obstacle for Neway's Magda. One misses Marie Powers as the mother, but Evelyn Sachs' young, noble Mother gives great support to the other leads.
The treasure of the disc is without a doubt the Magda Sorel of Neway. Her performance here is shattering. She underplays the first act, and her denunciation in act two ("To this we've come")becomes all the more jaw-dropping. There is a slight thinness to her timbre in the second act consulate scene, but her committment to the story and the text far surpasses any vocal flaws. This was - after all - ten years after the premiere. Magda's husband John is played by Chester Ludgin. His rich baritone gives great authority to the 'super-man' hero John Sorel. The people in the consulate are played effectively - they are truly lost. Their ensembles are well-filmed, especially the first act finale ("In endless waiting rooms"). Each one brings a distinct humanity: the heart-rending foreign woman (Marlo), the wealthy Vera Boronel (Kobart; whose character needs a visa the least), the patient Mr. Kofner (Voketaitis), the afflicted Anna Gomez (DiGerlando), and the mesmerizing Magician (Kelley) who represents in a obscure way, Death. This is a strong, in fact, a priceless performance, and I predict that it will be a mandatory viewing for all future participants of the opera. The version performed is the original 1950 version before Menotti revised some of the score. The film is in black and white."
A Powerful Re-discovery
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 07/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It has been three days since I first watched the recently released DVD of Menotti's "The Consul" and I have spent a good portion of those days ruminating over the experience.
First off, even though quite familiar with the work, I was nonetheless devastated by seeing, for the first time, Patricia Neway re-creating her Magda Sorel. I simply am incapable of adequately putting into words what her performance did to me. For the first time, the completeness of Magda's self-sacrifice hit me with full force as never before, both in its earnestness and in the horror of its ultimate futility.
Neway's face is a truly magnificent actor's mask, the possessor of an endless range of expression giving multiple facets to a potentially nearly constantly hysterical character. She makes Magda a truly believable woman. Her Magda is an unlikely example of one character simultaneously worthy of admiration and pity. Neway does not possess a particularly large voice and in certain climatic moments of the score she sounds just about at the end of her resources. While some may find "fault" with this, I find that, typical of everything else Ms. Neway does here, she is giving her all and this contributes to a performance that can only be described as shattering. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in the great scene "To this we've come" which is about as perfect a wedding of text, music and emotion as I have ever experienced. I watched in sheer awe unable to control my tears. Writing this now, I'm again shaken with emotion. Neway completely shatters here. One of the truly most magnificent performances by any artist of the 20th century.
As John, Chester Ludgin is every bit as real as Neway's Magda. Though together but briefly in the opera, there is never less than a sense that this is a real couple, one who's dedication to each other is total, unable to live without the other and equal in sacrifice.
Regina Sarfaty's all ice princess stickler of The Secretary, is chilling, finding compassion only too late to alter the outcome. The diminutive Maria Marlo is especially touching The Foreign Woman incapable of comprehending the world she now exists in. Leon Lishner is a chilling presence, even when not singing and the "revelation" in the third act with his menacing smile made me think Spoleta had a more handsome, more sinister brother. The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent.
Unfortunately I've not seen much in the way of discussion or review on this DVD and wonder how many others have been similarly destroyed by Ms. Neway's definitive performance.
This receives my highest of recommendations."
S. J McKenna | San Francisco, CA USA | 10/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is theater - any theater, not just opera - at its best. The realism is stunning, the message chilling, and the music perfectly suited. If anyone can get through Magda's great aria dry-eyed I would be flabbergasted."
Total Music Theater...Very Moving
Autumn | New York, NY United States | 06/01/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a must-own disk for anyone who is interested in opera, theater, or Menotti. The performance will overwhelm you with it's power. It's difficult to imagine a more involved, moving performance."
Alfonso Affinito | West Haven, Connecticut USA | 01/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In the world of music drama there are some artists who so identify with certain roles or role, that one cannot imagine one without the other. There is for example, Maria Callas and Norma, Jon Vickers and Peter Grimes. Patricia Neway seems to have been born for the role of Magda Sorel in Menotti's powerful drama of opression, The Consul. I had the good fortune of being at a performance with Ms Neway in the 1950s when the work was new and creating a sensation in New York and on tour. I must say that the impact of this masterpiece has not dimished in all the ensuing years since its prmiere, in fact, one is totally knocked out at its conclusion. Most of the original singers are in this performance with the exception of Marie Powers, and whoevers played Anna Gomez. In searching through the Amazon DVD list, I happened on this DVD which I hadn't known existed. It was a happy day. Every lover of great music drama should have this in their collection. I would like to add that it would be wonderful if the Met Opera would produce this work in lieu of the incoherent new operas they have been comissioning for the past few years."