Home » today » Entertainment » Justin Brown and Rubén Szuchmacher anticipate “El Cónsul”, which will premiere this Tuesday the 3rd at the Teatro Colón

Justin Brown and Rubén Szuchmacher anticipate “El Cónsul”, which will premiere this Tuesday the 3rd at the Teatro Colón

The consul it is a very popular play, there is a great attempt to please the public, and it seems perfect to me. It’s in English, a language that for many people is closer than Italian, German or French, in terms of singing”, says Rubén Szuchmacher, the régisseur of The consulwhich goes on stage on Tuesday, May 3 at the Teatro Colón, with Justin Brown as musical director.

“It’s very close to the musical, in fact Menotti did it for seven or eight months on Broadway. I think it’s the ideal opera for those who don’t like opera,” he adds.

The opera by Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007), with a libretto by the same composer, recounts the desperate attempt of a politically persecuted man and his family to flee from the totalitarian regime in which they find themselves, and confront its indifferent bureaucracy. The Consul, personification of a Kafkaesque bureaucracy, never appears.

Justin Brown and Ruben Szuchmacher. Photo: Emmanuel Fernandez.

Scheduled for the 2020 season, the pandemic stopped the work 15 days before rehearsals began. “I grabbed the sheet music and put it away. It was all very uncertain, it wasn’t just a postponement,” says Szuchmacher.

And he says: “Almost involuntarily, the work acquired a closeness to reality, between COVID and the Ukraine War with Russia. Two years ago, it was just another opera; Now it doesn’t seem like just another opera to me. It acquired an unforeseen actuality”.

“It is the only opera -he assures- where someone says the word vaccination (vaccination), in the context of the long list of requirements that the secretary of the consulate states to the applicants. They are going to believe that it was a joke that we made, but it is on the sheet music.”

-Did anything change in all this waiting time?

-In scenographic terms we did not change anything. It follows the same musical director, Justin Brown and, except for two singers – who are with a legal issue with the theater – the same cast continues.

Was the title proposed by the theater or was it your idea?

-I think it was a proposal from Augusto Techera.

“For me he is a rare author”

-Before doing this work, what did you know about Menotti’s music?

La Medium, a work made by an independent nucleus in the eighties, at the El Vitral theater, in Spanish and with piano. I liked it a lot and, from then on, I began to listen to works by Menotti, with some hesitation.


-Because he is a rare author for me. Now I’m more familiar with it, and I like it. But I keep thinking that he is a Puccini who came later to the cast. In his symphonic works it is much more dynamic, more contemporary, than in his musical theater.

-Menotti defined “El Cónsul” as a “melodrama” or “drama with music”, rather than an opera. What is your perception?

-When he wrote The consul wanted to do a popular play, that would enter the musical comedy system, and it could perfectly well be a play like The Miserables. In that sense, he went ahead because there was not at that time that type of musical comedy that was all music.

It could perfectly be an operetta, there are many parts with recitatives that could easily be spoken. They could do without the linear melody and it would work exactly the same, like Candideby Leonard Bernstein. In fact, it is not a work that has great airy themes. It has a beautiful quintet, the trio of the first act. It has very beautiful moments musically.

-Did you see Menotti’s version of the play at the Teatro Colón in 1999?

-I did not see her. I don’t remember why.

Did you investigate what he did?

-Yes, of course. I saw Basaldúa’s sketches, I spoke with people who worked on that production.

French, English and Italian

-Where did you set the play?

-There’s a mess there. The work begins with a song in French, the characters speak in English, the idea of ​​nationalities appears but at the end of the century -by the names: Nika Magadoff, Anna Gomez– and Menotti had the pleasure of putting an Italian, who sings almost a quote from Suor Angelica, by Puccini.

It is a very funny scene because they are singing in English and, suddenly, the Italian jumps in, thanks to the intervention of the hypnosis of the magician to one of the characters. It is very interesting what the author does.

-And where did Menotti place it?

-For me it is a work that is written towards the end of the Cold War. They say that Menotti read in the newspaper the story of a Polish woman who wanted to leave, did not get a visa to enter the United States and committed suicide. But it’s still a work from the 50s, in ’48 it’s McCarthy, in the middle of the Cold War. It is supposed to be an Iron Curtain country.

-Of course, the viewer of the time probably caught it, but today it is a historical fact that is diluted, right?

-Yes, except those of us who are very old and we remember. I don’t think it makes much sense to go there.

“Dance is the share of the musical”

-There are two dance numbers in the play. Do they fit well into the narrative? Did you leave them?

-Yes, I left them. But no, the dance thing is not disruptive. There is the musical fee, and I think it has to do with the entire treatment of the work. What I tried was to take the work as if it were a soundtrack: that the music be like the accompaniment of the things that happen on the scene, rather than follow exactly the rhythm of what happens in the music. This allows for a certain lightness in the scene, to remove the weight of the melodrama.

I make the scene of the first nightmare lighter, I remove the gesture, the melodramatic tension. Where possible, of course, because there are scenes where the drama prevails and cannot be lightened.

– I imagine that as a graduate of the Instituto Superior de Arte del Teatro, and with his time in music, it shouldn’t be difficult for him to make concessions to the musical director.

-Yes. That experience allows me to understand that there are times when “the scene” is that music is heard. You have to stop everything and let her pass. It’s not that nothing happens, the music happens.

Working with Justin Brown

British director Justin Brown with Rubén Szuchmacher, the director of

British director Justin Brown with Rubén Szuchmacher, the director of “El Cónsul”, which goes on stage on May 5 at the Teatro Colón. Photo: Emmanuel Fernandez.

For Justin Brown, the british manager who studied with Seiji Ozawa and Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood, the music of The consul It is very close to the Italian tradition.

The consul It is a verista opera. I think Menotti wanted the music to come immediately so that people would understand it. He did not write for critics, nor for intellectuals, but for the public, like Puccini or Verdi. He wanted to recreate the idea that opera is for the people. This work was not written for the Metropolitan Opera, but for Broadway. And it doesn’t mean it’s a musical. It’s not,” he says.

-Maybe it unites the two worlds? Or, at least, try to bring them closer.

JB: Bernstein, who was writing at the same time, really wanted to write musicals, wanted to make a turn towards that genre: On the Townhis first musical, then Candidewhich is an operetta. West Side Story (1957), which is not classical at all. All this has nothing to do with what Menotti did: he does not use jazz or the music of the young people of that time. He uses classical music and perhaps some element of film music, which was written by composers like Erich Korngold, for example.

-How would you describe the musical language of Menotti?

JB: Sometimes Menotti’s music sounds like a soundtrack. But only sometimes. He was Italian, later a naturalized American, heavily influenced by Puccini. There are many beautiful melodies. To me they sound a lot like Turandot, also The Triptych (The cloak, Sister Angelica y Gianni Schicchi).

The biggest challenge

What was the biggest challenge that the work posed for you?

JB: I think that the great challenge from the musical point of view is to achieve immediacy, something visceral, with a great orchestra. With the great arias, there is no problem. Menotti wrote for a smaller orchestra – the work was written for a Broadway-type theater, where he spent several months – and there you go more to the fiber, to the nerve of the thing.

RS: Sustain the dramatic. The work has an intended verista treatment. It is full of acts and actions, you have to build them, and it is complex. In the theater there is no problem because one sets the time to do the actions, but with the music marking the time, sometimes you arrive and others you have left over. The baton is like the flag of the taxi: time begins to run and you have to fit a number of actions into just eight bars.

JB: The work is shot through with anxiety or nervousness, with a constant sense of danger. In opera houses, there is no such sense of danger. We play Verdi, Puccini or Wagner, and it’s all very nice. Y The consul it doesn’t go that way. There are beautiful melodies, but we have to create that atmosphere of danger for three hours. Then you calm down and relax.

-The theme of the work maintains a constant uncertainty, right?

JB: Yes, and Rubén is a great director for this work because he knows how to handle that, how and when to release tension. He comes from the theatrical tradition. As he says in his book, the public must be captured by the staging.

When we do an opera in a beautiful theater like this, we don’t see the people, we are in the pit making beautiful sounds, but there is no connection with the audience. It’s hard enough to pull it off from the stage because it’s so big. But I like challenges and I’m happy. We want, and need, to create an atmosphere of danger that is real to the public, that’s the way the world is today.

the work together

-Was the dialogue between you easy?

RB: Yes, it was easy. I really liked Justin from the beginning, when he told me: “It’s just an opera”. As if to say, “it’s not a war, it’s an opera.” When he asks me anything related to music, I don’t fight that kind of thing because I perfectly understand that kind of problem. I am not a capricious director.

JB: Of course we were in contact before I arrived. Rubén, he understood very clearly that the public has to be part of the theater, he understands the music very well as well. I only made a few small comments about the timing of some things: waiting for a response, creating more tension, and not immediately responding to a question that one character asks another.

-Menotti refers to the importance of silence in the work.

RS: Yes, and Justin is very precise about this. On some occasions I went over some moments because he had a lot of work to put on and little time, and he pointed out to me that I had to wait a bit in some places or take out some actions. It was very good that he adjusted things like that.

JB: Yes. Silence is important both musically and dramaturgically. In the second act, when Magda’s baby dies, it’s a very tragic moment and then the character has to sustain a really long period of silence.


The consulthe three-act opera by Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti, to a libretto by the same composer, was premiered in 1950.

With musical direction by Justin Brown, leading the Stable Orchestra, and stage direction by Szuchmacher, he will go on stage on Tuesday, May 3 at 8:00 p.m., and the rest of the performances will take place on Thursday 5 and Tuesday 10, at twenty; and Sunday 8 at 17.

The cast is made up of Leonardo Neiva (John Sorel), Carla Filipcic Holm (Magda Sorel), Adriana Mastrángelo (Secretary of the consulate), Virginia Correa Dupuy (John’s mother), Héctor Guedes (secret agent), Pablo Urban (Nika Magadoff) , Alejandro Spies (MR. Kofner), Marisú Pavón (foreign woman), Marina Silva (Anna Gomez), Rocío Arbizu (Vera Boronel), Sebastián Sorarrain (Assan) Set and Costume Design: Jorge Ferrari. Lighting Design: Gonzalo Córdova.


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