The Consul Credit: Keith Ian Polakoff

It’s hard to think of an opera more timely for 2017 than The Consul, which was first performed in 1950. Composer and librettist Gian Carlo Menotti’s expressive meld of words and music—both lyrical and dissonant—tells the story of a family trapped by an unresponsive bureaucracy as they desperately try to escape a nameless “large European city” in a violent police state. Born in Italy, Menotti came to America at age 17 and stayed for 30 successful years before returning to Europe. He wrote The Consul in the wake of World War II, when hundreds of thousands of people were still living in postwar displaced persons camps; it won a Pulitzer Prize the year of its debut, during a time when fear of fascism and communism (but especially the latter) fueled a climate of suspicion in the United States—and its portrayal of political limbo speaks to the refugee crises of today. This Chicago Opera Theater production features a major international star, the admirable soprano Patricia Racette, in the central role of Magda Sorel, a woman stranded for lack of a visa while her husband (sung by baritone Justin Ryan) is hunted by local authorities and her baby is critically ill. Andreas Mitisek, who led COT from 2012 through last summer, is back as director. (The show is a coproduction with Long Beach Opera, which Mitisek still heads.) Kristof van Grysperre conducts. Expect it to be excruciating and memorable.   v