Opera Scotland

Medium The Medium

Music

Gian Carlo Menotti

Text

The Composer

Source

Original

 

Premieres

First Performance: Columbia University, New York (Brander Matthews Theater), 8 May 1946.

First Performance in UK: London (Aldwych Theatre), 29 April 1948.

First Performance in Scotland: To be confirmed.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.

 

Background

Before the war, Menotti composed one conventional opera, Amelia Goes To The Ball (1937), which quickly transfereed to the Met. His next opera was the first to be specifically written for radio (The Old Maid and the Thief) and in 1954 he would compose the first opera specifically for television (Amahl and the Night Visitors). By contrast, The Medium is almost conventional. It is a dramatic work written for a small cast and chamber orchestra, centred on Madame Flora, who, with the help of her daughter and mute servant, holds regular séances, with fake special effects prepared in advance. A couple of regular clients and a first timer also appear. The work had a substantial run on Broadway when it opened. The crux of the drama is reached when something happens during the séance which has not been prepared in advance, and Madame Flora is completely unnerved by this.

 

Characters

Madame Flora, a medium (contralto)

Monica, her daughter (soprano)

Toby, their mute servant (mime)

Mrs Gobineau, a regular client (soprano)

Mr Gobineau, a regular client (baritone)

Mrs Nolan, a new client (mezzo-soprano)

 

Plot Summary

Monica and Toby help Madame Flora to prepare the set for the séance. They are frightened of her, and she is very bad-tempered. The three clients arrive and the Gobineaus tell Mrs Nolan what an excellent medium Madame Flora is. During the first part, Monica appears, according to plan, veiled, in a misty light, and  Mrs Nolan is convinced this is her daughter, and her questions are easily dealt with. After she has disappeared, Monica now uses her voice to imitate a child, which the Gobineaus take for their daughter. Suddenly, the atmosphere is transformed as Flora shouts out in a combination of fear and anger. She has felt someone touching her throat. She tells the clients to leave, and then she rounds on Toby, thinking he must have touched her. In mime he makes it clear he didn't. Flora remains terrified and falls on her knees.

A few days later, and Madame returns to the subject with Toby. As he continues to deny everything, she beats him. When the same clients enter for their séance, she tells tham that everything has been faked, but they refuse to believe her. She cancels the appointment and gets them to leave. Then she throws Toby out too. Monica goes to her room. Left alone, Flora starts to drink, then sits down to review her life. Eventually she slips into an exhausted sleep. Toby now creeps back into the flat. He finds the door to Monica's room is locked. He starts to look for things in a trunk, but lets the lid fall with a bang. As he hides behind a screen, Madame wakes up, and getting no reply to her shouts, she takes out her pistol and fires, convinced she has killed 'the ghost'. But it is Toby she has killed.

The Cast

Madame Flora
 
Monica
 Madame Flora's daughter
Mr Gobineau
 a client
Mrs Gobineau
 a client
Mrs Nolan
 a client
Toby
 a mute

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