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Berkeley Chamber Opera will open its 2017 season with“The Consul”

Ellen St. Thomas
Friday July 07, 2017 - 11:46:00 AM

Berkeley Chamber Opera will open its 2017 season with“The Consul”,by Gian Carlo Menotti at Berkeley's Hillside Club on Friday, July 14 and Sunday, July 16.

Berkeley Chamber Opera is dedicated to presenting operas which showcase the work of the Bay Area’s wealth of resident professional talent at a price which is affordable for a wide range of opera fans.

Under the musical direction of Maestro Alexander Katsman, “The Consul” will be presented in English accompanied by the Berkeley Chamber Opera orchestra. A tragic and thought-provoking work, it debuted on Broadway in 1950 and ran for eight months. It won a Pulitzer Prize for Music and New York Drama Critics' Circle award for Best Musical.

Brazilian director Igor Vieira, who has appeared as a leading baritone for more than 15 years, will make his Berkeley Chamber Opera directorial debut with the opening season.

Eliza O’Malley, founder and lead soprano was moved to produce this opera in response to the current climate of immigrant intolerance. She says: 


“The tragedy of the story lies squarely on the leading role of Magda Sorel, a woman drowning within the bureaucracy of governmental red-tape. Her husband on the run from a totalitarian regime; her child and her mother-in-law both sick, starving, and nearing death; and all the while, Magda is engulfed in a never-ending whirlpool of paperwork in a futile chance to save the crumbling world she once knew. Ultimately resigned to her fate, the opera eventually takes its most tragic turn, but it is the power of the other artists that will make the story believable and heartfelt.”
“The Consul” addresses the universal plight of stateless refugees from a repressive regime in an unidentified totalitarian country, sometime in the mid-20th century. Two incidents during World War II helped to fuel Menotti’s desire to dramatize the refugee issue. In one case, a group of Austrians seeking refuge in nearby Hungary were trapped for a week on a bridge between the two nations, because they lacked the documents to emigrate. In another episode, a Polish woman fled with her daughter to the U.S. but was denied entry because her former husband, an American resident, agreed to take in their child but refused to sponsor her. After surrendering her daughter, she committed suicide at Ellis Island. 



While the unfortunate Polish mother was an inspiration for the character of Magda, the supporting role of Anna in “The Consul” was inspired by another desperate émigré: a European woman Menotti met on a flight from Italy to New York, who was extremely distressed and lacking proper immigration papers as she faced U.S. customs officials. He never found out what became of her. 


The Consul” by Gian Carlo Menotti will be performed at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street in Berkeley on July 14, 2017 at 7 PM and July 16 at 2 PM. Tickets: $30 general, $20 Students/Seniors, Children under 12 free Brown Paper Tickets 1-800-838-3006. (510) 517-1820. 


Magda Sorel: Eliza O’Malley
Secretary: Michelle Rice
Mother: Deborah Rosengaus
John Sorel: Michael Orlinsky
Secret Police Agent: Jason Sarten
Nika Magadoff, magician: Alexander Taite
Mr. Kofner: J.T. Williams 

Foreign Woman: Cara Gabrielson
Anna Gomez: Amy Foote
Vera Boronel: Bethany Goldson
Assan: Igor Vieira
Street Singer: Liliane Cromer