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The Consul to play in Washington Hall this weekend

Jonathan Retartha | Friday, March 26, 2004

The sounds of death, love and politics fill Washington Hall this weekend as the ND Opera presents Menotti’s “The Consul.” The story, sung in English, focuses around the Sorel family. John, his wife Magda, his mother and the couple’s infant son all live together in a small apartment.John regularly takes part in secret meetings against the government, and one night the meeting is raided and John is wounded. Magda and John’s mother become very upset, and hide John when the secret police come to interrogate Magda. She keeps quiet, but when John emerges from hiding, he decides that he must seek refuge outside the country in order to protect his family. The family shares a tearful parting, and John warns Magda to watch for news of him from the local glasscutter. John also tells Magda to go to the local consulate to gain visas to leave the country. Magda travels to the consulate’s office only to the find the waiting room full of people experiencing similar visa problems. Some do not have proper identification, while others do not have the correct forms filled out. Others like Magda cannot wait months for a visa when they need to leave the country as soon as possible. Magda asks the secretary to see the consulate personally, but the secretary refuses repeatedly. Magda returns home to her mother in law and very ill son. She has nightmares about her husband and son, but finally receives some news from the glasscutter. John is waiting in the mountains for them to leave the country. Magda returns to the consulate to beg for a visa. What follows is a race against time to save a family and to escape the authorities.The ND Opera was started in 1991 as a way for students to learn opera techniques and perform in front of an audience. In the fall semester, the students learn about opera and the methods by which opera is performed. In the spring, they put together a full production using the skills learned in the fall.John Riley-Schofield from Yorkshire, England directs this year’s production. He has performed at the Huddersfield School of Music, along with the Royal Academy of Music in London. He has also been involved with productions of the English National Opera and the Netherlands Opera. Along with teaching, he is an accomplished opera singer, classical singer and pianist.John Apeitos conducts “The Consul.” A native Australian, he has conducted the National Radio Symphony of Athens, Greece, as well as other productions in Italy, Australia and the Czech Republic.Paul Appleby plays John Sorel, the fugitive freedom fighter. His voice is powerful and carries extremely well over the orchestra. He also does an excellent job of displaying the emotion necessary to further the plot, while delivering the notes perfectly. He draws very near to actually overpowering others on stage, but this helps the other actors to be at their best to keep up.Rebecca Paul plays Magda, John’s wife. She has a beautiful voice and perhaps the toughest role to play because of the extreme emotions and pain she must deliver. Paul does an excellent job and blends with Appleby very well.Krysta Dennis plays John’s mother, and while she may not have the most powerful voice in the ensemble, she delivers her lines clear enough so that the audience understands them. Stephen Lancaster plays the secret police representative. His delivery is perhaps the most articulate of the ensemble. He takes his time with his delivery and puts a great amount of thought and effort into each line.While the cast does an excellent job in their own individual performances, the ensemble really shines in their combined deliveries. The performance of John, Magda and John’s mother before John leaves is incredibly powerful as the three sing together in rounds. Another similarly impressive performance belongs to the people waiting in the consulate’s office. The set design is very plain with white walls, an armchair, a crib and a shelf for the apartment; and a desk and chairs for the consulate. The period for the costumes is somewhere in the mid 1950s, with trench coats, suits and fedoras for the men. Magda and her mother wear middle class clothing befitting homemakers of the decade. “The Consul” is a very entertaining and unique musical experience. It would certainly provide a fun evening for those who are long time opera fans, or for first time viewers. The English lyrics are easily understood, and it is not hard at all to keep up with the action. It provides an excellent introduction into the world of opera.

“The Consul” plays at Washington Hall Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and senior citizens, and $10 for the general public. Tickets are available at the LaFortune Box Office.