Act Too Studio Opera Workshop presents:
Gian Carlo Menotti’s
Many thanks to these generous people for making this production possible!
Cast (in order of appearance):
Toby: Cole Mathewson
Monica: Caroline Lee
Madame Flora: Alexa King
Mrs. Gobineau: Stephanie Craven
Mr. Gobineau: Brandon Dallmann
Mrs. Nolan: Callie Damouras
Director: Melinda Beasi; Musical Director: Lemuel Gurtowsky; Choreographer: Connie Flachs; Student Director: Tess Mathewson; Sound Effects Artist: Eliza Carson; Stage Manager: Sylvia Simmons
Originally commissioned by Columbia University and later professionally produced on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theater in 1947, The Medium was inspired by a stay in Austria, during which Menotti attended a séance with one of his hosts who believed she could communicate with her deceased 14-year-old daughter.
“It was a tremendously moving experience for me, so much so that I found myself with tears streaming down my cheeks,” Menotti told biographer John Gruen. “There was no doubt that the baroness was actually seeing her daughter. I, on the other hand, saw nothing at all. It gave me pause, because she believed and could see, while I didn’t believe and therefore couldn’t see anything. It made me wonder whether belief was a creative power and whether skepticism could destroy creative powers.”
The story that came out of Menotti’s experience is that of Madame Flora, a scam artist who runs fake séances with the help of her sixteen-year–old daughter (Monica) and a mute teenage boy (Toby) whom she “rescued” from the streets of Budapest as a child. Madame Flora is satisfied with her business (and ruthless in pursuing payment), until one evening when, during a séance with three bereaved parents (Mr. & Mrs. Gobineau, Mrs. Nolan), she feels a ghostly hand around her own throat. Horrified and shaken, Madame Flora dismisses her clients abruptly, thus beginning a downward spiral that ultimately ends in tragedy.
“Though Menotti’s opera is not specifically set in any place and time, its libretto begs us to examine the context of the time in which it was written. Conceived during that Austrian visit in 1936 and composed in the aftermath of World War II, the significance of past horrors witnessed by Madame Flora and especially of Toby’s plight as an orphaned “gypsy” child in Budapest come clear.
That Toby’s family was swept up in the Porajmos (Hitler’s Romani genocide) is unavoidably likely, and as a director—and perhaps more importantly a teacher—acknowledging this seems vital. In this context, Madame Flora perhaps indeed “rescued” Toby, though her repeated abuse of him and his culture (which she simultaneously appropriates for her own purposes) makes that a difficult pill to swallow.
For these reasons, I’ve set this production decidedly in the era in which it was written. And in a departure from the opera’s traditional staging, I’ve decided to use the musical introduction to each act as a vehicle for exploring Toby’s past as well as his present inner world. In doing so, I hope to honor the character and the real-life Tobys of the past as well as I can.
It’s been a privilege for me to work with such talented, passionate students on this dark little piece. I hope you’ll find as much beauty and meaning in it as we have.” – Melinda Beasi, Director
August 13-15, 2015, 8:00 PM, Eastworks, 116 Pleasant St., Suite 160, Easthampton, MA 01027