Virginia Zeani "To this we've come … Papers, papers," The Consul, Gian Carlo Menotti

Virginia Zeani in her most dramatic role as Magda in “The Consul” or, as sung here in Italian, “Il Console”.

It was the first time Zeani had been seen dressed in drab clothes and flat shoes as an unglamorous heroine, However, having lived in a Communist regime, from which she had escaped to political asylum in Italy, she identified herself completely with the role and portrayed it with penetrating intensity.

She plays a refugee desperately trying to get her husband released from captivity. But she comes up against an implacable, totalitarian bureaucracy.
Faced with endless form filling and never able to satisfy their demands she breaks down and cries out “Papers, papers, papers” “carte. carte, carte” .

Then, feigning calm, she starts to answer their questions:
Age? Still young.
Colour of hair? Grey.
Colour of eyes? The colour of tears.
Occupation? Waiting, waiting. waiting, waiting!!! – attendere, attendere, attendere!!!

Zeani sang the role for Menotti in the Spoleto Festival in 1972 and again in the Maggio Musicale in Florence. She received ecstatic reviews and it was one of the greatest triumphs of her career.

To this we’ve come
That men withhold the world from men
No ship no shore for him who drowns at sea
No home nor grave for him who dies on land
To this we’ve come That man be born a stranger upon God’s Earth
That he be chosed without a chance for choice
That he be hunted without the hope of refuge
To this we’ve come To this we’ve come
And you, you too shall weep
If to men not to God we now must pray
Tell me secretary tell me, who are these men?
If to them not to God we now must pray
Tell me secretary tell me
Who are these dark arch angels?
Will they be conquered?
Will they be doomed?
Is there one, anyone behind those doors
To whom the heart can still be explained
Is there one anyone who still may care?
Tell me secretary tell me
Have you ever seen the consul?
Does he sleep? Does he breathe?
Have you ever spoken to him
Papers, papers, papers
But don’t you understand? What must I tell you to make you understand?
My child is dead, John’s mother is dying
I ask for your help and all you give me is papers
What is your name Magda Sorrel
Age 33, Color of eyes, color of hair, single or married, religion and race, place of birth, father’s name, mother’s name…PAPERS!! PAPERS!!
Look at my eyes, they are afriad to sleep
Look at my hands, at these old woman’s hands
Why don’t you say something? Aren’t you secretaries human beings like us?

What is your name Magda Sorrel, age 33
What does that matter?
All that matters is that the time is late
That I’m afraid and I need your help
What is your name? What is your name?
This is my answer: my name is woman
Age still young, color of hair grey
Color of eyes, the color of tears
Occupation, waiting, waiting, waiting
Oh, the day will come I know
When our heart’s a flame
Will burn your paper chains
Warn the consul secretary, warn him
That day neither ink nor seal
Shall cage our souls
That day will come
That day will come

Disclaimer- Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favour of fair use. If for any reason, you deem that a video appearing in this channel violates copyright, please inform us immediately before you submit a claim to YouTube and we will take care to remove it

NB The recordings of Mme Virginia Zeani are mostly from radio broadcasts or private or in-house tapes. They were saved by her fans and later, without her permission, sometimes transferred to CDs by companies who pay her no royalties. They are now posted on YouTube so that new opera lovers can freely experience and enjoy her remarkable performances.


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