|Opera by Gian Carlo Menotti|
The composer in 1944
|Librettist||Gian Carlo Menotti|
March 1, 1950
Schubert Theatre, Philadelphia
Its first performance was on March 1, 1950 at the Schubert Theatre in Philadelphia with Patricia Neway as the lead heroine Magda Sorel, Gloria Lane as the secretary of the consulate, Marie Powers as the mother, and Andrew McKinley as the magician Nika Magadoff. The opera opened two weeks later at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York City where it enjoyed a run of nearly eight months.
Neway, Kuhlmann, and Powers also performed these roles in the UK at the Cambridge Theatre in February 1951, with Norman Kelley playing the role of the magician Nika. For the opera's La Scala debut in January 1951, Powers and McKinley reprised their roles, and Clara Petrella portrayed Magda.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast, 1 March 1950|
(Conductor: Lehman Engel)
|Magda Sorel||soprano||Patricia Neway|
|Secretary of the consulate||mezzo-soprano||Gloria Lane|
|Mother, mother to John Sorel||contralto||Marie Powers|
|John Sorel, husband to Magda||baritone||Cornell MacNeil|
|Secret Police Agent||bass||Leon Lishner|
|Nika Magadoff, magician||tenor||Andrew McKinley|
|Mr. Kofner||bass-baritone||George Jongejans|
|Foreign Woman||soprano||Maria Marlo|
|Anna Gomez||soprano||Maria Andreassi|
|Vera Boronel||contralto||Lydia Summers|
The political dissident John Sorel is on the run from the secret police. At his home, his wife Magda and his mother hide him. The police arrive and search, but cannot find him. John says that he will escape to the border, and tells Magda to go to the consul and apply for a visa to leave the country. He will wait to cross the border until his wife, mother and child are safe.
Scene 2: The consul's office
Many people are waiting to obtain visas. Magda applies and joins the crowd, but the secretary cannot promise anything. Lots of specific paperwork is needed, and obtaining a visa is a long process. The same people wait at the consul's office day after day with no approval of a visa.
The child is ill, and John's mother sings to comfort the child. The police try to extract information from Magda on her husband's compatriots, but she refuses. A message then arrives from John urging Magda to hurry with the visa.
Scene 2: The consulate
Magda is desperate to see the consul. A magician, waiting for a visa, attempts to impress the secretary by performing magic tricks and hypnotizing the rest of the room into believing they are at a ball, but he only ends up frightening her. Magda, after repeated visits, erupts in an anguished rant at the secretary, who says that she may see the consul once an "important visitor" has finished his business. This visitor proves to be the chief of police and Magda flees in terror.
Magda's child and mother-in-law have died. At the consul's office, Magda learns that John is planning to risk his life and return for her. A wealthy woman arrives and is immediately given a visa. Magda thinks of suicide to try to protect John, and leaves the consulate. As the office is about to shut down for the day, John suddenly arrives, but with the police in pursuit. The police capture John, and the secretary gets on the phone to try to contact Magda.
Despondent, and with visions of her past crowding her mind, Magda turns on the gas in the oven to kill herself. Her telephone then rings, the secretary trying in vain to contact her.