SARATOGA SPRINGS – Opera Saratoga’s third offering of the season, Gian Carlo Menotti’s “The Consul,” was given a riveting production Saturday night at the Spa Little Theatre.
It’s no wonder why the opera received the 1952 Pulitzer Prize. Menotti, who also wrote the libretto that was sung in English, focused on issues that plague the world today: indifferent bureaucracies; the desperation of people attempting to flee police states; the banality of evil when ordinary people just follow the rules of corrupt systems; the arrogance of those in power.
With current events in the minds of many in the sold-out crowd, the powerful libretto supported by a soaring and lyrical score kept everyone spellbound. It’s a long show with two intermissions, but action began immediately.
Written in a through composed style in which dialogue is mostly sung with only the occasional aria and the music is both support and commentary, the show is almost more theater. Strong acting was essential but everyone was committed and intense. Director Lawrence Edelson allowed for natural movement and blocked skillfully.
The cast was uniformly terrific. The principals included baritone Robert Wesley Mason as Sorel, the political dissident trying to flee; the sensational soprano Meghan Kasanders as his wife, who stopped the show in the second act with a heart-wrenching aria; mezzo-soprano Deborah Nansteel as the mother.
In inspired writing, Menotti inserted a segment of a magician who was trying to impress the consul’s secretary to bypass the need for the “right” paperwork. This lightened the mood. Tenor Tyler Nelson, who played the magician, displayed great sleight of hand, much to the audience’s pleasure and sang quite wonderfully. He took pleasure in his role.
What made the few arias special were the poetic lyrics. Beautiful word choices with interesting alliterations and colors made for vocal eloquence.
Cameron Anderson’s set was compact, but with Brandon Stirling Baker’s stark white lighting, it worked. The consul’s “office” on the second-floor level brought “oohs” when lighting first illuminated it. A brilliant design choice.
The orchestra under Andrew Bisantz was in full throttle.
The remaining two performances of “The Consul” are matinees Monday, July 9, and Sunday, July 15.