I looked at an old column of Mitchell's last week and reflected on the following comments about the state of opera in America, or at least up there in Minnesota :
"Or take Menotti's The Consul, the story of a woman trying to get a passport to escape a totalitarian country. This would seem right up the alley for a company that likes 'message' operas. (And, in fact, the MO [Minnesota Opera] did do The Consul - back in 1979.) You might ask yourself why the MO doesn't revive it? Maybe they can't figure out a way to suggest to the audience that George W. Bush is the leader of Menotti's totalitarian state, I don't know. My point here is that to bring Menotti back (and several opera commentators have mentioned that the time is ripe for a revival of Menotti) It would show something that the MO doesn't often exhibit - creativity. They like to think they do, what with their new, provocative productions - but new doesn't equal creative."
Being someone who was very new into opera at the time (only my third opera attended, and I was 27!), I have always associated The Consul with the Facists or Nazis of World War II. It seemed that was how I saw it because of the time it was written, having a history degree from college.
Unfortunately, in a strange way, what happened has been drilled deep in my brain. A few months later, after my alma mater was trashed in a football game against its rival, I said I was seriously considering suicide, and the next morning at church, I collapsed in the same way as Magda did in the end of Act II, in the room while awaiting everyone else to come from their early rock service. All of it was a joke, and today, if I'm angry, I'll say I am this mad that I'm taking my own life, and then say like Magda Sorel, explaining the humourous line because of the nature of Magda.
Of course, the "punch line" is the lady who played Magda in the performance in question has always known the joke when I say it. (My voice teacher!)
As someone whose parents and grandparents escaped from China to Taiwan in the late 1940's, I can associate it with people escaping from a Communist nation. But after studying facism and the National Socialist Workers' Party of Germany in World War II, I can also associate with those nations.
(As an aside: My voice teacher called me the Monday before The Consul, saying, "Bobby, I need to postpone our (final) voice lesson (of the session). I have to do this scene." After watching Magda's suicide scene, I could understand. Just 21 months previously, she lost her mother to suicide. This was intended to be my last voice lesson with her, as she took a position after graduation in a college in Winter Park, Florida. After signing a deal with her friend for a year, I didn't know what my future vocally would be. Somehow, the homesickness for the palmetto trees erupted during appearances at an opera contest and when her graduate school professor retired, she told her closest confidants -- including myself -- that she was returning to her beloved Palmetto home. Of course, when that was announced, I inked a new deal.)