Gian Carlo Menotti wrote The Consul, his first full-length opera in 1950 in response to stories he heard, news reports and personal encounters with refugees fleeing Europe after World War II. Two stories, taken from the pages of the New York Times, moved him deeply. One involved a group of Jewish refugees who became trapped on a bridge between Austria and Hungary. Based loosely on this article, Menotti wrote a screenplay for MGM. His story involved refugees trying to flee Austria to Hungary, during WWII. They didn’t have passports or papers and ended up trapped for a week on a bridge between the two countries. Neither Austria nor Hungary would admit them. But the subject was deemed too depressing for audiences, looking to forget the great tragedies of the war. And the film was never made.

Menotti with his partner, composer Samuel Barber

The other involved the tragic story of a Polish immigrant who hanged herself on Ellis Island after being denied entry to the US. The utter despair felt by this immigrant in particular, who has risked and lost everything… I feel that this fuelled so much of the emotion...

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