Saturday, March 29, 2014

An Eloquent 
Musical Indictment 
of Government Bureaucracy

To This We’ve Come


" ... My child is dead; John's mother is dying, and all you give me is papers – papers – PAPERS! ..."

An Opera in Three Acts

Music and Libretto by 


Patricia Neway, who created the role of Magda Sorel, presents here one of the most moving scenes in the operatic literature. Menotti won the Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for The Consul. The show also won the New York Drama Critics Award for Best Musical. This performance was televised in 1960, ten years after the opera’s first appearance.

Gian Carlo Menotti (1907-2011)


  1. This weekend, I'm going to make time to watch this video.

    For now, it's off to work I go! And I'm sure that I must file paperwork with the government for this little bit of employment too. **sigh**

  2. Paper! Papers!! PAPERS!!!

    Anyone who has ever had to deal with a government bureaucracy on any level -- local, state, federal, but especially the latter -- is sure to empathize with the plight of Magda Sorel.

    When it first arrived, this opera was interpreted as a passionate denunciation of the Soviet Union and the tyranny it visited upon the Russians and the satellite nations it had captured and subjugated. Since then, however, it has taken on a more universal significance as a particularly eloquent denunciation of the oppression that comes with dehumanization, depersonalization of any variety be it Communist, Fascist, Ecclesiastical, -- or Corporatist.

    Dealing with SEARS, for instance, has these days become every bit as frustrating, infuriating and depressing as dealing with the IRS, the INS, the ACA or the DMV. Now that former AMERICAN companies have become gigantic, faceless, impersonal, cold-hearted multinational entities, trying to get a defective appliance replaced can become a nightmare of epic proportions. Take it from One Who Knows.

  3. I still believe that the "proper" response to this issue is comedy!

  4. Certainly that's one approach. I love satire, myself.

    HOWEVER, I believe the best possible way to make "converts," would be to evoke EMPATHY in the hear of your hearers.

    Once you can honestly see yourself in another's place, and feel his anguish -- or elation -- you've passed the halfway mark toward Understanding.

    Unfortunately, not everyone has the necessary "receptors" to enable him to benefit from brilliant displays of uncommon eloquence.

    Nevertheless, at the most basic level with the exception of a very few genetically impaired monsters, and bizarre sociopaths -- we are all human beings who ought by all that's holy to be able to relate to the plight of Magda Sorel.

  5. Have to agree with one point, FT, that was a very powerful performance. First rate.

    However, I believe the person coming out of the consul's office is the secret police officer hunting here husband.
    The opera is commenting on cold war Soviet repression, not bureaucracy.

  6. It is interesting to recall that this sort of programming was common in the early days of network TV.

  7. ...of course, it wasn't all just one big joke, either.

  8. Ducky,

    I said this above before you commented:

    "When it first arrived on the scene, this opera was interpreted as a passionate denunciation of the Soviet Union and the tyranny it visited upon the Russians and the satellite nations it had captured and subjugated. Since then, however, it has taken on a more universal significance as a particularly eloquent denunciation of the oppression that comes with dehumanization, depersonalization of any variety be it Communist, Fascist, Ecclesiastical, -- or Corporatist."

    Soviet Communist repression and ever-expanding bureaucracy in service to an increasingly authoritarian government are effectively synonymous.

    Tyranny is tyranny no matter whose banner it parades under.

    1. Tis so true, true of Koch Brother manipulation as well. Economic tyranny waged by the corporatist capitalists and pull peddlers.

  9. While I would never call work on the level Menotti produced "common" in any sense of the word, I certainly agree that television began as a powerful force for good with unlimited potential to enrich and uplift the culture.

    Unfortunately, that only lasted a few short, blessed years, and then vulgarity, idiocy, degeneracy, and the relentless, very deliberate process of "dumbing us down" took hold, and has brought us to new lows with each passing year.

    I am old enough to have been a WITNESS to all of this, and therefore KNOW whereof I speak.

    I think we probably agree on what has transpired, but you would want to blame "rampant Corporate Greed" while I am positive it has been the work of Cultural Marxism run amok.

    Remember this about Capitalists: They will find ways to survive and prosper even in the most hostile of mental climates. If this means sponsoring idiocy and degeneracy in order to sell soap, that's what they will do. HOWEVER, the Capitalists did not CREATE the debased products and depraved scenarios that Cultural Marxists foisted on the culture -- craftily, insidiously, surreptitiously, seductively -- they merely found ways to make it pay.

    I've said it repeatedly: Capitalism untempered by the constraints imposed by a CHRISTIAN CONSCIENCE is apt to be just as evil as any other godless system of Man's devising.

    And before we drag out the Crusades and the Inquisition et al. let me say that the administration and application of raw temporal power of that kind is the absolute antithesis of Christ's teachings.

    It is POWER, ITSELF, that we must loath, despise and fear. NO ONE and NO FACTION, however good it may appear, should ever be permitted to gain and hold it very long.

    At the rate we are going right now, we shall ALL be Magda Sorel in very short order.

    Menotti gives the show away when he has her say, "My name is WOMAN."

    She in her agony and desperation speaks for us ALL.

    THE CONSUL is a WARNING as much as it is anything else.

  10. You misunderstand me, FT.

    I don't mean that the work is "common", only that this was a style of programming that appeared fairly frequently on network TV.

    Criterion has very good DVD sets of early dramas and Martha Graham dance performances which I would recommend.
    The broadcast of "Appalachian Spring" is especially good.

  11. We are not in disagreement, Ducky. So, let's not get tripped up in semantical differences.

    TV attorneys always object very loudly when the lawyer for the other side starts cross examining his own witness. ;-)

  12. In the video embedded in this blog post, we see a caring woman defeated by bureaucratic paperwork and the resulting delays. Look at the woman's body language!

    Dealing with every bureaucracy and other blockades defeats all but the most persistent -- and even the persistent, such as Magda Sorel, can be defeated if the blockades are strong enough.

    Now, of course, the blockades are computer generated. Just this morning, I had to navigate another blockade so as to communicate with Mr. AOW's neurologist. Glitches, glitches, glitches -- but I FINALLY managed to get through to respond to a message from the neurologist. How much time did I have to spend to do this? Almost 30 minutes! A simple exchange of emails would have done the job more efficiently. But no! I had to go through the healthcare portal. Grrrrr.

  13. The recent proliferation of bureaucratic red tape:

    ...[F]ederal regulators issued more than 2,000 new rules in 2013—doing such helpful things as restricting access to mortgage credit and imposing new limits on the amount of energy a microwave oven can consume when it is in standby mode or turned off. Seriously.

    A new Heritage study shows the Obama administration is rolling out the red tape at a record pace. Since taking office, Obama has instituted 157 new major rules and mandates at a cost to American taxpayers of $73 billion a year. That’s more than double the amount of such regulations his predecessor, George W. Bush, had implemented in his first five years.

  14. If we fail to check our present course, and turn The Good Ship America around in the next two elections, it's only going to get worse, AOW.

    Before it's all over, "they" may very well have you dressed in rages, shrieking and grovelling only to be carted off to a padded cell specially reserved for those who still Resist the Regime. You might even be frog-marched to a grim courtyard, blindfolded, tied to a post and machine-gunned by a firing squad. And no I'm not exaggerating.

    Magda Sorel is a SYMBOL of ALL oppressed, exploited, denied and abused humanity.

    The incredibly powerful, glorious, transcendent BEAUTY in her passionate outcry -- a kind of spiritual EXALTATION that sometimes comes to righteous, long-suffering souls -- demonstrates with piercing clarity why she -- and all the other exploited, disregarded, abused, oppressed human beings -- are worth saving, worth sacrificing for, worthy even of veneration.

    It may sound pretentious, but I believe Menotti intended Magda Sorel to function as a female stand-in for Jesus Christ. Watch it again, and take note of the way she spreads her arms, looks up and appears oddly joyous at the climax of the aria.

    I've listened to Eileen Farrell sung this innumerable times, and experienced this video with Patricia Neway five or six times since I discovered it, and each time I not only get goose bumps, I burst into tears.

    The Consul is a very great work. Menotti was a very great figure in the musical world -- a man of keen perception and extraordinary talent -- true genius, I think. His work speaks to the multitudes, and was very well received when he first became prominent.

    I only wish he had composed more operas. He had it in him to become The American Richard Strauss, but Alas! It was not to be.

    As successful as he was, his work just does not command the respect it deserves.

    That's because Rock and Roll come in very shortly after the premiere of The Consul, and has slashed, smashed, crashed, bashed, stomped, poisoned, polluted and perverted our innately sensitive, caring nature, marred our perceptions, blurred our image of reality and starved our souls till they have withered, and all but died.

    Of all the forces that have coarsened, degraded and weakened the culture I see Rock and Roll as the most powerful.

    Remember this:

    The Devil's most significant accomplishment to date has been to convince the innocent, the ignorant, sophisticates, the intelligentsia, -- and the host of "sheeple" who unthinkingly follow any flamboyant, exotically dressed "Pied Piper" who rides into town -- that he, Satan, does not exist.

    He does, Virginia, believe me, he does -- and he lives right inside you along with The Holy Ghost. It is our job to choose wisely between the two -- the job of a lifetime.

    1. For many, and I am one of the many FreeThinke, Satan, like the boogeymen of ones childhood, exists only in the minds that believe so.

      I consider Satan but one side of a two sided looking glass. A looking glass that exposes the two opposing sides of the human condition.

      The choice which side to enter rests entirely with the individual. IMNHO there are no boogeymen.

  15. Draw strength, find courage, and take comfort in these words from Holy Writ:

    "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from when cometh my help.

    "My help cometh from the Lord, which made Heaven and earth.

    "He will not suffer thy foot to be moved. Behold He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

    "The Lord is thy keeper, He is the shade upon thy right hand.

    "The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.

    "The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil.

    "He shall preserve thy soul.

    "The Lord preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore."


    How we interpret the meaning of "Israel" is crucial to a worthy understanding of this psalm.

  16. FT,
    Agreed: If we fail to check our present course, and turn The Good Ship America around in the next two elections, it's only going to get worse.

    I have doubts that The Good Ship will turn around. We shall see.

  17. FT,
    How we interpret the meaning of "Israel" is crucial to a worthy understanding of this psalm.

    Those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior, IMO. In the context of this Psalm, Israel doesn't necessarily refer to any nation state -- or tribe. See Hebrews -- the chapter on faith.

    Archetypes are employed throughout the Bible. Archetypes can be literal, but literal interpretations can also involve symbolism.

  18. Believe it or not, I've been to a few operas. Although I am not an avid fan of classical music and opera as you are, FreeThinke, I can appreciate the great talent, long hours of hard work and the single-minded dedication it takes to perform these arts at the professional level.

    And yes, our feral government resembles the old, creaking Soviet Union more and more each day, especially in its bureaucratic tyranny.

  19. Bizzie Lizzie says

    OMG! FTposted this over at Western Hero.

    Would I resort to ruthless, unprincipled, manipulative, highly illegal tactics, Machiavellian maneuverings to rid this nation of Obamacare and all things like it, if I had the opportunity?

    You're GODDAM RIGHT, I would -- and so would YOU, if you had the sense you were born with. It may be regrettable, but THAT is the way things get DONE in the REAL world. In the final analysis only MIGHT MAKES RIGHT.

    The smartest, strongest, most ruthless guy with biggest, fastest gun gets to tun the show. The rest is Folderol and Fiddle Dee Dee. Tosh and Taradiddle. Stuff and Nonsense! -- BULLSCHITT to you in Rio Linda.

    I guess that shows who HE really is, right? A sick, twisted, psychotic, racist, fascist pig. You reek, FT.

  20. RN, I think either you must be joking, or you are terribly naive. It might be, perhaps, that you just want to call attention to yourself. Are you sure you are really you, and we are not being deceived by imp who stole your identity?

    ------------> Katharine Heartburn

    1. No anon I am not joking or naive. However you are undoubtedly both.

      Additionally you are. like so many others, afraid to stand by your true identity. Could this be because you ate embarrassed?

      You are entitled to your beliefs. So am I and every other individual (or collectivist religionist) for that matter.

  21. #FT -- That's because Rock and Roll come in very shortly after the premiere of The Consul
    Rock and opera compete for the same audience? Who knew?

  22. Ducky,

    I never cease to wonder at the way your mind appears to work. I admit it has irritated me for years, but I am beginning to realize how limited my own understanding of human nature really is. You represent a facet foreign to my disposition, but I know it's foolish to dismiss other points of view as though they couldn't possibly matter.

    I know little of John Stuart Mill, but Bartlett's saw fit to quote him, and many years ago this remark struck me as significant.

    "We can never be sure that the opinion we wish to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still."

    ~ John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

    My resentment of the Left stems from what-appears-to-be their fervent desire to obliterate all forms of opposition.

    If it's any comfort, I find you far less annoying and much more interesting than the all the mindless BOILERPLATE that purports to be on "my" side.

  23. Red, baby, I have to admit: You simply CONFOUND me.

    But again, who am I to dismiss ANY of the myriad facets of Human Nature?

    There's much wisdom in the old cliché -- or is it a slogan? -- or maybe even a shibboleth? -- I am not sure, but anyway:


    Yeah man! Ain' it de troof?

  24. What can I say, FT. I credit the Moose and Squirrel for inculcating in the youth of America a hearty disdain of the Red Menace.

  25. I'm amazed that anyone would take such childish nonsense so seriously, Red. At the same time I have long deplored the general yuckapuck, shuck and jive, bibbling inanity of TV, and if I had had children, I would not have had a set in the house.

    As you know, I do see the pop culture as degenerate -- a form of MIND POISON -- but that includes any number of things that, apparently, you as a highly intelligent adult seem to enjoy, so I don't know where that leaves us.

    I am excited and find hope in obvious expressions of sincerity and truth. Naturally, life being what it is and always has been, these things do not deal with bland, pleasant, reassuring, merely amusing themes.

    Nevertheless, I understand that vulgarity, trivia and out-and-out lunacy wield tremendous power -- and ain't it a shame?

  26. What you, (and mr ducky, I might add) deplore in terms of American culture, I celebrate.

    For that "degeneracy" as you call it, to me, represents an expressed "symptom" of the qualities of freedom and liberty available to members of our society.

    Even the poorest "criminal" in America can express his own "culture"... "gangsta".

    As comedian Yakoff Smirnoff might say, "What a country!"

    So as much as I, personally, might enjoy the opera or symphony, it isn't the "only" form of cultural entertainment available. But at the same time, I might add the comment to those who enjoy "rap" music, "shame on you if you don't take advantage of the 'higher' cultural opportunities available to you."

    We must exhort others to virtue, not shove it down their throats.

  27. ...for nothing will turn a mind against you as quickly in our post-modern society as an authoritarian edict.

    Our culture has become completely "commodified" (ready for the commode, in the opinion of many).

    This superego–paradox also allows us to throw new light onto the functioning of today’s art scene. Its basic feature is not only the much deplored commodification of the culture, but also the less noted, perhaps even more crucial opposite movement: the growing culturalization of the market economy itself. Culture is less and less a specific sphere exempt from the market and more and more its central component. What this short’circuit between market and culture entails is the disappearance of the old modernist avant-garde logic of provocation, of shocking the establishment. Today, more and more, the cultural economic apparatus itself, in order to reproduce itself, has not only to tolerate but to directly incite stronger and stronger shocking effects and products. Let us recall recent trends in visual arts: gone are the days when we had simple statues or unframed paintings — what we get now are expositions of frames themselves without paintings, expositions of dead cows and their excrement, videos of the inside of the human body, inclusion of smell in the exhibition, and so on. Here, again, as in the domain of sexuality, perversion is no longer subversive: the shocking excesses of part of the system itself. The system feeds on them in order to reproduce itself. Perhaps this is one of the possible definitions of postmodern art as opposed to modern art. So what then is superego, what is this superego injunction which is replacing more and more the old symbolic law of prohibition? Superego is the reversal of the permissive "You May!" into the prescriptive "You Must!", the point in which permitted enjoyment turns into ordained enjoyment. - Slavoj Zizek, "The Superego and the aCT"

    Law is rapidly losing its' effect. And the "Superego" that previously stood BEHIND Law itself, that of the Oligarchs, is rapidly losing its' "persistence", succumbing to the consumers who were once its' "subjects".

  28. Oh YEAH?

    Well ANARCHY ain't no fun neither.

    That's when Brutality takes charge and Civilization effectively ends.

    I'm not alone in my love for a well tended rose garden, a flourishing herbaceous border, a beautifully manicured bowling green, and various water features including marble fountains and a koi pond.

    What is happening, however, will soon make such refined pleasures impossible, because the WEEDS the PESTS and BLIGHT have been given their head, and are rapidly taking over.

    Wait till the peasants break into YOUR drawing room muddying the Aubusson with manure-caked hobnailed boots, rape your wife and daughters while you are forced to look on, smash your porcelain, slash your oil paintings, steal your jewellery, and make a bonfire of your fine antique cabinetry, then march YOU of to a "Re-Education Center" -- or lops of your head with a rusty penknife after each takes a turn at sodomizing you.

    I prefer my rose garden to a God-damned JUNGLE, and those who do not deserve whatever dreadful fate befalls them.

    You see, I do NOT believe in "democracy" as such. I believe in rule by highly adept, well-informed, honest, enlightened men who have distinguished themselves by achieving success the hard way. The catch is that these men must be possessed of a Christian Conscience.

    That doesn't mean they have to belong to a church, or even be baptized. They only need to be sincere in their concern for and considerate of others.

    Kipling said it ALL in The Gods of the Copybook Headings. I see that a better source of sound advice than the Bible.

  29. Sure-Can-Whore said

    That Menotti guy was drop dead gorgeous, wasn't he? Too bad he wasted it on other men.

  30. "We must cultivate our garden", Dr. Pangloss.

    Your tend yours. I'll tend mine. :)

  31. We must cultivate our own garden. When man was put in the garden of Eden he was put there so that he should work, which proves that man was not born to rest.

    - Voltaire

  32. Time to complete the circuit folks. All you need to do is touch the two loose wires together. Really, when you do the results may astound you.

  33. "I am excited and find hope in obvious expressions of sincerity and truth"

    Me too. In high and low culture alike, my enjoyment is derived from precisely that.

    The "obvious"ness of a given expression is the point at which subjectivity enters.



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