One doesn’t often get the chance to see a fully-staged production of Gian Carlo Menotti’s Cold War opera The Consul, a great hit after its debut in 1950. This is an opera of inaction, of waiting. John Sorel (baritone Michael Chioldi) comes home wounded from a meeting of dissidents. He must flee the country. He tells his wife Magda (Melissa Citro) that she must go to the Consulate for a visa so that she, their child, and his mother can join him in exile. At the Consulate, Magda joins a crew of hopeful, then hopeless, supplicants.
If Carl Maria von Weber occupies an esteemed position in music history textbooks, his works make only rare, fleeting appearances on opera programs outside Germany, even Der Freischütz, considered to be his only work with a sufficiently convincing libretto to merit staging today. As for Weber’s popularity in the United States, I expected to find that Der Freischütz had been a standard at the Met earlier on in its history, perhaps up until the 1960’s, when its theme of good triumphing over evil would have begun to grate, or at least before the First World War, when anti-German sentiment put a damper on such Teutonic entertainments. To my surprise I learned that, except for the 1880’s, the 1920’s and a 1971-72 production which never lasted beyond its first year, Der Freischütz was largely confined to individual arias performed at concerts, which were more frequent at the Met before the Second World War. (Weber’s Euryanthe received four performances in 1887, and Oberon was staged—very successfully, it seems—in 1918 with all dialogue removed and the remaining text refashioned.) Der Freischütz has been kept alive primarily by recordings, a famous one under Carlos Kleiber from 1973, a radio recording under Carlos’ father Erich, and a magnificent Salzburg performance under Wilhelm Furtwängler, not to mention Kubelik, Jochum, and a recent one under Harnoncourt.)