Libretto list

The Consul Libretto

ACT I  


 Scene 1

(The scene is the home of John Sorel, a small, shabby
apartment in a large European city. The apartment is
above the street level and is entered by a door at the
extreme left. A centre window overlooks the street
and an alcove at the extreme right leads the rest of the
apartment. In the recess leading to the window are the
kitchen sink and the gas stove. There is a telephone on
the stool below the cupboard, and a cradle near the
entrance of the alcove.
When the curtain rises, the room is empty and dark. It
is early morning, the windows are open, and the music
of a record played in a café on the street can be heard.
A dim light in the alcove throws across the wall the
shadows of the moving figures within the alcove.)


VOICE ON RECORD
Tu reviendras et voudras
M'enfermer dans tes bras.
Moi il faudra que je songe
A te cacher les sombres
mensonges
de ma Vie, parce-que tu
reviendras...
Ah, pauvre toi,
La verité tu ne sauras
jamais...

(The outer door is flung open and John stumbles into
the room. He clutches at the workbench for support and
upsets it. It falls with a great crash of tools, throwing
John to the floor, Painfully, he drags himself to a chair
and lies across it, gasping for breath, as the record
begins to play again.)


VOICE ON RECORD
Tu reviendras...

JOHN
Magda! Magda!

MAGDA
(Magda rushes in from the alcove, followed by the
Mother. Magda goes immediately to John and helps
him sit in the chair. She kneels, rips open the trouser
leg and examines the wound.)
John! Oh, God! What's happened?

JOHN
I'm, hurt.

MAGDA
Mother, get something quick. John is hurt!

MOTHER
Is it bad?

MAGDA
I don't know. Where is it, John?

MOTHER
(The Mother goes into the alcove, returning
immediately with a basin of water and bandages.
She takes them to Magda)
Fool! fool!

JOHN
Here, it's my leg. It isn't serious, but it hurts.
I had to run on it all the way home.

MAGDA
Mother, close the window.

(The Mother closes the window, shutting out the sound
of the record. As she bathes and cleans the wound)

Is this the only place?
Thank God, it isn't too bad.
But how did it happen? Answer me!

MOTHER
What else for us but sorrow.
You may as well tell us the truth.

MAGDA
Was it the Police? Answer me!
It was the police, wasn't it?

JOHN
Yes, of course.

MAGDA
And they shot at you.
I knew this would happen, I knew it.

MOTHER
Oh, John what have you done?
Oh, John, think of your child!
Haven't we had enough troubles already?
Oh!All this hating will never bring home
but long sleepless, nights.

MAGDA
Oh, John, what have you done?
Oh, John, must all my life be this waiting,
fearing, countingthe hours, dreading theknock at my door?

JOHN
I was given orders to go to Nana's place
for a secret meeting.
Shortly after midnight,
the leader called our names, and we were all there.
I still don't know who could have betrayed us.
Not one among us of that I'm sure.
Sudden in the night
we heard the noise of cars and the screech of brakes.
Out the garret window and down the slanting roofs,
we made our escape.
They shot at us from the street.
Marcus was hit, he fell, rolled down the shingles.
Even from up there we heard the thump
as he hit the pavement.

(Magda helps John remove his raincoat
and hangs it on the wall rack)

MOTHER
Oh, when will all this sorrow end?
Damn you, you and all your friends!
Why don't you men bring homesome bread
and not only fear and blood?
A million dead cannot feed your child.

MAGDA
Oh, Mother, be quiet!
What is the use of wailing like that, what is the use?

MOTHER
(Despairingly, the Mother goes to the window
to keep watch.)
Yes, yes, I shan't say any more.

JOHN
(To Mother)
Do you see anything?

MAGDA
Why, John? Did anyone follow you?

JOHN
I don't know.

MAGDA
Did anyone recognize you?

JOHN
I don't know,
but we must be ready for anything.

MAGDA
(in angry despair)
Oh, bitter love, this love of freedom,
that locks the very air we breathe,
this love that keeps its champions burrowing
in the darkness like moles.

JOHN
Magda, Magda, do not fail me.
The seed needs darkness to spread its bitter roots.
This we must do so that one day
our son may see with innocent eyes
the flower we nourish in bitter darkness.

MOTHER
(From the windows)
Quick, John! The Police!

(For an instant all three are frozen with panic. Magda
instinctively puts her arms protectively around John.
Then he indicates that they must help him to the agreed
hiding place. The two women half carry him into the
alcove, and while the Mother holds the curtain aside,
Magda helps John climb onto the roof The Mother
hurries to right the overturned workbench. Magda
draws the curtains of the alcove and runs to gather up
the basin, the cloths, and the medicine bottle. Carrying
these, Magda goes at help the Mother set the table in
place. The Mother hurries to the bureau, finds some
papers there that must be concealed, finally hides them
under the blankets of the cradle and drags the cradle
over to her chair, into which she sinks heavily. Magda
carries the basin and other things into the alcove and
returns with her sewing basket, seating herself at the
dining table. With feigned calm, the two women await
the entrance of the police. The Mother suddenly sees
the bloodstains on the floor. She signals to Magda, who
tries frantically to wipe them away with her skirt. The
Mother hands Magda the shawl from the cradle. Magda
cleans away the stains, hands back the shawl, for a
moment is too exhausted to move, then forces herself
to sit calmly at the table. The door is flung open and the
Secret Police Agent rushes in, followed immediately by
two plain-clothes men. The Secret Police Agent directs
the two men to search the apartment. They search the
alcove, check the window, emptying out the drawers of
the workbench and the bureau, scattering clothes and
paper all over the floor.)

MOTHER
Shall me ever see the end of all this?
I'm not thinking of us old people,
but of all our children and their sons.
Shall they ever see the end of all this...

MAGDA
Ssh! Mother, please, be quiet!

MOTHER
Yes, I know.
Patience has become the virtue of the young.
But we old people have seen too many tears,
we have seen too much blood,
we have seen too much betrayal.

(One of the men is directed to search Magda, then both
are sent to wait outside.)

We can no longer keep our silence!
Even death seems too slow
in granting us our rest.

POLICE AGENT
(To Magda, from the door)
What is your name?

MAGDA
Magda Sorel.

POLICE AGENT
And the old woman?

MAGDA
My mother.

POLICE AGENT
(The Police Agent questions them with unctuous
courtesy, pacing nervously about the room, kicking
the clothes that have been dumped from the bureau
drawers.)
When did you see your husband last?

MAGDA
Two weeks ago.

POLICE AGENT
Two weeks ago? Do you expect me to believe that?

MOTHER
You heard her!

POLICE AGENT
Yes, indeed,
but we like to give people a second chance.
Where is your husband?

MAGDA
I don't know.

POLICE AGENT
When do you expect him back?

MAGDA
I don't know.

POLICE AGENT
Is this your child?

MAGDA
Yes.

(The Police Agent peers into the cradle, then goes to
examine the wall rack and examines John's raincoat.)

POLICE AGENT
What a sickly looking, baby... and his father away!
Is this his jacket?

MAGDA
Yes.

POLICE AGENT
(spotting some blood in it)
Very interesting... very...
And why don't you expect him back?

MAGDA
I never said that.
I only said that I don't know where he is.

MOTHER
(To Police)
John is a good boy.
What do you want from him, anyway?
Why don' t you leave us alone?

POLICE AGENT
(ironically)
I wasn't speaking to you, Madame.

MAGDA
Yes, Mother, please...

MOTHER
All right, all right...

POLICE AGENT
(resuming his unctuous tone)
Mrs. Sorel, your husband has many friends.
We're interested in his friends,
we would like to learn their names.
Yes, we could leave you alone,
if you would prove to be of help.
Yes, you can help us
crush the enemies of the State.
Well, then?

(alter a long silence, with sudden violence)

Answer me!

MAGDA
I don't know.
I don't know anything...

POLICE AGENT
Mrs Sorel, to be courageous is often a very selfish thing.
You have a mother, and a husband, and a sweet little child.
You love them very much, don't you?

(She don't speaks)

Courage is often a lack of imagination.
We have strange ways to make people talk.
Oh, no at all the way you may think.
All we have to do is
to quicken the beat of your heart.
The heart is a very frail thing.
People like you can disregard pain.
People like you can defy strength.
But not the beat of your own heart...
Think it over, Mrs. Sorel

(He stands over her threateningly, then suddenly
relaxes, takes his hat and goes to the door.)

We shall see each other again.

(The Police Agent exits very quietly and The Mother
moves swiftly at the window.)

MAGDA
(To John)
Don't move yet. Wait.
Have they gone, Mother?

MOTHER
Not yet. Don't move.

MAGDA
John, are you all right?

JOHN
(train his hiding place)
Yes, but haven't they gone yet?

MAGDA
Don't move John, don't move!

(She goes to the door to see if they have gone.)

MOTHER
Here they come!

(From across the way the loud, desperate
wailing of a woman is heard)

They're taking Michael the shoemaker away!

MAGDA
The poor devil! What could he have done?

MOTHER
Who knows!
His wife is crying,
clinging on to his coat sleeve...
They cannot get her away from him.
Oh, I cannot look any longer.

(She closes the window, shutting off the cries. The
Mother moves away from the window towards the
middle of the room. Magda goes at help John out
of his hiding place.)

Oh God,
how long must women cry over man's destiny
Have pity on man,
this bit of clay wet with women's tears.

MAGDA
Have they gone, Mother?

MOTHER
Not yet... Wait. Don't move. Yes, they have gone.

MAGDA
(Magda helps John into the room, then turns to him
suddenly to touch him, frantically and almost fiercely
they embrace.)
And now... What is to be done now?

JOHN
You must be strong.

MAGDA
You're going to leave us, is that it?

JOHN
Yes.

MAGDA
Where will you go, my love?

JOHN
I must try to cross the frontier.

MAGDA
Cross the frontier?
But when?

JOHN
Tonight!

MAGDA
Tonight? Oh, John, no!
Not tonight, John, please!
Where can you go tonight, bleeding and lame?

JOHN
Tomorrow may be too late.
I must not lose this chance.
To wait is to betray my cause...

MAGDA
Look at your feverish eyes.
They'll burn in the darkness and signal to your enemy.

JOHN
This is my only chance:
to go before the hunter's net is laid,
to hide my path and keep the goal unknown
until the work is done.

MAGDA
Oh, no John! Wait!

(As John goes into the alcove, Magda tries to le
restrain him.)

Not tonight! No, John. I won't let you go.
Mother, please don't let him go!

(The Mother embraces Magda.)

MOTHER
Yes, Magda!
John is right... He must go now.
But God will join us again.

JOHN
(John re-enters with more clothes and papers.)
Go to the Consulate tomorrow.
Tell them our story.
Ask them for help.
Tell them what I've done.
They will not bolt their doors
to my wife and my mother and my little son.

MAGDA
(Magda moves about dazedly, attempting at help John,
but scarcely able at believe that he is leaving her.)
To whom shall I call for help if all should fail?

JOHN
No one.
You must not ever call on my friends.
Your every move may be watched.
Their work and their lives may be endangered.
Forget their faces, forget their names.

MAGDA
But how shall I know here you are?
Who'll bring me news of you?

JOHN
(John beckons the two women to him.)
Listen carefully when a child on the street throws a stone
and breaks this window,
that will be a signal.
Call Assan the glasscutter,
and ask for a new pane.
He will bring you news of me.

(John goes to the cradle and kneels next to it. The
Mother stands next to him)

Let me kiss my son.

(Magda goes to fetch John's jacket, and, still holding it
tenderly, slowly walks towards the front of the stage)

Now, oh lips, say goodbye.
The word must be said,
but the heart must not heed.
So, my lips, say goodbye.
The rose holds the summer in her winter sleep.
The sea gathers moonlight
where ships cannot plough
and so will the heart retain endless hope
where time does not count,
where words cannot reach. Now, oh lips... ecc.

MAGDA, MOTHER, JOHN
Let no tears, no love laden tears,
dim the light that charts out way.
Leave the tears to the starless one
who wanders without a compass in the night.
So, within the heart,
let hope be the haven that words cannot reach.
Heart, do not listen, lest you surrender.
Parting turns time into tears,
turns hearts into clocks.
Be like the sleeper
who knowsthat his dream is a dream.

(John embraces Magda, breaks away from her,
embraces his Mother, and leaves as the curtain falls.)

Scene 2

(Later the same day. The scene is the waiting room of
Consulate, a cheerless, coldly-lit room, furnished with
usual benches and wall desks. Downstage, from the
front of the desk extending to the back wall is a heavy
wooden railing with a swinging gate which separates
the space used by the Secretary from the rest of the
waiting room. Upstage, between the side wall and the
railing is the door to the Consul's office. The door
should massive with the upper half of semi-opaque
glass. The cornice could be surmounted by an
indistinguishable coat-of-arms or other official symbols.
The curtain rises. The Secretary is busily typing at
her desk. Mr Kofner, an elderly gentleman with a
slight professional air, and the Foreign Woman, an
old peasant, sit on the benches, waiting to be summoned
by the Secretary)

SECRETARY
(The Secretary rarely looks at the applicants
as she speaks to them.)
Next!

(Mr Kofner gets up quickly and comes at the railing.)

Yes... What can I do for you?

Mr KOFNER
My name is Mister Kofner...

SECRETARY
I believe we've seen you before.

Mr KOFNER
Oh yes, yesterday and the day before yesterday,
and the day before, and every day for oh, so long...

SECRETARY
It isn't our fault if you never bring
the necessary documents.

Mr KOFNER
I know, I know. It isn't your fault.

(He places the documents on the desk as she checks
them off her list.)

SECRETARY
Did you bring your birth certificate?

Mr KOFNER
Yes.

SECRETARY
Did you bring your health certificate?

Mr KOFNER
Yes.

SECRETARY
... and your vaccination?...

Mr KOFNER
Yes.

SECRETARY
... and your affidavit?...

Mr KOFNER
Yes.

SECRETARY
... and the statement from the bank?...

(Magda enters and takes a place on the bench.)

Mr KOFNER
Yes.

SECRETARY
... your passport?...

Mr KOFNER
Yes.

SECRETARY
... three photographs?

Mr KOFNER
Yes.

SECRETARY
But, Mr. Kofner!
These are not the right size,
I told you... they must be three by three.
Besides, this paper must be notarized.

Mr KOFNER
For God's sake!...
When will it be right?

SECRETARY
Well, well, Mr. Kofner.
After all, it isn't our fault...

Mr KOFNER
I know, I know, it isn't your fault...

SECRETARY
(handing back the documents to him one by one)
There is a notary around the corner.
He can do it for you right away.
The photos you can bring tomorrow.

Mr KOFNER
(returning slowly to his seat)
Oh, yes, tomorrow... and the day after tomorrow...
and the day after and every day for, oh, so long!

(Anna Gomez enters. She is young, thin, frantically
nervous. Slashed through her dark hair is a bizarre
streak of pure white. From time to time, her arm is
grotesquely pulled by a sudden tic. She attempts to
disguise the movement by pushing her hand through
the streak in her hair. After a moment's hesitation,
she takes her place on the waiting bench.)

SECRETARY
Next!

(impatiently)

Next!

MAGDA
(To the Foreign Woman)
Go ahead...

FOREIGN WOMAN
(She goes to the roiling.)
Oh, sì, sì... Buon giorno.

SECRETARY
Yes... What can I do for you?

(The Foreign Woman shrugs her shoulders helplessly)

Well, then...

FOREIGN WOMAN
Scusi, Signorina, ma io non capisco...

SECRETARY
Oh dear! You... you «non capisco», eh?

FOREIGN WOMAN
No.

SECRETARY
Is there anyone in this room who can understand her?

Mr KOFNER
(He gets up and comes the Foreign Woman
to translate for her)
I do. I believe I can help her.
Parlate pure. buona donna.

FOREIGN WOMAN
Grazie!
Mio Signor, io vengo per mia figlia, l'unica mia creatura...

Mr KOFNER
It's something about her daughter...

FOREIGN WOMAN
Fuggí da casa con un dei vostri soldati
quando era ancora una bambina...

Mr KOFNER
It seems that she ran away with one of your soldiers.

FOREIGN WOMAN
Per tre anni non ebbi sue notizie; la cercai dappertutto

Mr KOFNER
For almost three year she had no news of her
and couldn't find out where she was.

FOREIGN WOMAN
Avevo ormai perduta ogni speranza
di rivedere la mia Giulia,
ma stamani la lettera é arrivata...

(She produces precious letter from her bosom.)

... e così mi scrive la mia povera bambina.

Mr KOFNER
This morning, at last,
she received a letter from her daughter.

FOREIGN WOMAN
(reading from the letter)
"Mamina, mi sono ammalata, e temo di morire.

Mr KOFNER
It seems she's very ill...
And afraid to die...

FOREIGN WOMAN
Mio marito m'abbandonata..
con un piccino di tre mesi in questo paese straniero"

Mr KOFNER
Her husband left her with a little boy.

FOREIGN WOMAN
"Mamma, vieni! Ho tanto bisogno del tuo aiuto."

Mr KOFNER
She asks her mother to go there
and help her out of trouble.

FOREIGN WOMAN
È proprio così che mi scrive la mia povera bambina.
Immagini la mia pena.

SECRETARY
Well... and what can we do for her?

Mr KOFNER
(To the Foreign Woman)
La signorina domanda che cosa desidera.

FOREIGN WOMAN
"Che cosa desidero?"
Io voglio andar vicino a la mia Giulia
e prendere cura del piccino!

Mr KOFNER
She wants to go to see her daughter Giulia,
and to take care of her new grandson.

SECRETARY
Tell her that first of all,
she must fill out this application.

Mr KOFNER
(To the Foreign Woman)
Deve fare la domanda.

FOREIGN WOMAN
Sì... e poi?

SECRETARY
... and then if it is accepted,
she must apply for a visa.

FOREIGN WOMAN
Ma quando potró partire?

Mr KOFNER
When will she be able to leave?

SECRETARY
It may be a couple of months...

(The Foreign Woman tries desperately at
follow the words she does not understand.)

... it may be three... four...
It all depends if and when she's granted a visa.

Mr KOFNER
(To the Foreign Woman)
Forse in un paio di mesi.

FOREIGN WOMAN
(stunned by this information)«Un paio di mesi?
» Ma, signorina, mia figlia è molto ammalata.
Bisogna ch'io vada di lei subito!

Mr KOFNER
Her daughter is very, very sick. She needs her right away.

SECRETARY
(shaking her head to make her meaning clear)
Nothing I can do!

FOREIGN WOMAN
Per piacere, signorina,
abbia compassione d'una povera mamma

(The Secretary hands the Foreign Woman the
application as Mr Kofner leads her away to the writing
desk to help her with it. After a while he regains his
seat, but the Foreign Woman will remain at the desk
painfully filling out the form until the end of the act.)

Mr KOFNER
(To the Foreign Woman)
Bisogna aver pazienza.

SECRETARY
Next!

(Magda crosses to the railing. The Magician enters,
followed by Vera Boronel. They take their places on
the benches The telephone rings. The telephone rings
again.)

Hello?

(The call is obviously not business. She immediately
adopts a babyish voice.)

Oh! It's you...

(She laughs coquettishly)

Yes, but not now... Bye-bye! Yesss...

(She puts down the phone and turns to Magda
again with a cold, efficient voice)

Yes?

MAGDA
May I speak to the Consul?

SECRETARY
No one is allowed to speak to the Consul,
the Consul is busy.

MAGDA
Tell him my name.

SECRETARY
Your name is a number...

MAGDA
But my name is Sorel. Magda Sorel.
The wife of Sorel, the lover of freedom.

SECRETARY
Sorel is a name and a name is a number.

MAGDA
May I speak to the Consul?

SECRETARY
No one is allowed... to speak to the Consul,
the Consul is busy.

MAGDA
Tell him my story.

SECRETARY
And what is your story?

MAGDA
My life is in danger.
They hover like hawks the Secret Police
and the spies over my house.
They leave me no peace.
Our house has been turned into a trap for my husband.
The child and I are the bait,
and the hidden hunter waits
for the heartsick panther to return.

SECRETARY
I don't see how we can help you.
You're not even one of our citizens.

MAGDA
May I speak...

SECRETARY
No one is allowed...

MAGDA
But yes, yes, only he can help me.

SECRETARY
And how can he help you?

MAGDA
My husband secretly fled to your country.

SECRETARY
He has entered our country illegally?

MAGDA
Yes, he did to escape the Police.

SECRETARY
Then he is a criminal case.

MAGDA
No, no... listen... you don't understand.
John is a hero, a lover of freedom.

SECRETARY
An irregular case.

MAGDA
May I speak to the Consul?

SECRETARY
(She gets up, facing Magda with increasing hostility.)
The Consul is busy.

MAGDA
Will you tell him my need?

SECRETARY
And what is your need?

MAGDA
Help me to escape, escape with my child.

SECRETARY
You're not one of our people.
You're not our concern.

MAGDA
But you are our friends,
the friends of the oppressed.

SECRETARY
(She goes to the filing cabinet and takes out
the necessary forms.)
We are at peace with your country.
Their laws are our laws.

MAGDA
I must see my John,
and you, only you, can help me.
May I speak to the Consul?

SECRETARY
(She returns to her desk with the papers and
hands them to Magda.)
I give you these papers.
This is how to begin:
Your name is a number.
Your story's a case.
Your need a request.
Your hopes will be filed.
Come back next week...

MAGDA
And you will explain to the Consul?

SECRETARY
But what is there to explain?

MAGDA
Explain that John is a hero,
that flowers bloom in the blood that was shed.
But the deed will be lost if the hand falls unkissed.
Explain to the Consul, explain!

SECRETARY
But what is there to explain?

MAGDA
Explain that the web
of my life has worn down to one single thread,
and the hands of the clock...
glitter like knives.
Explain to the Consul, explain!

SECRETARY
But what is there to explain?

MAGDA
Explain that the heart of one man
cannot be multiplied nor his life be divided,
that fate can be fixed to its diamond point
by a click of the tongue.
Explain to the Consul, explain!

SECRETARY
But what is there to explain?

MAGDA
Explain that John is a hero, e
xplain that he's my John!
Explain to the Consul, explain!
Tell him my name.
Tell him my story.
 Tell him my need.

SECRETARY
(as though she were explaining to a rather
slow wilted child)
Fill in these papers.
This is how to begin.
Your name is a number...

(Dazed, Magda returns to her seat.)

MAGICIAN
(To Vera Boronel)
I beg your pardon, Madam.
My name is Nicholas Magadoff,
the world-famous magician.

VERA BORONEL
I'm sorry.
I never go to the theatre.

MAGICIAN
Obviously!
Nevertheless, would you mind
if I practised one of my tricks on you?
It will help us both pass the time.

VERA BORONEL
Oh, no, Please!
I'm afraid of tricks.

MAGICIAN
Oh, but there is nothing to it!
Do you see this little ball?
Now you see it... now you don't. Now you see it...

(During the quintet, the sunlight slowly fades, obscuring
the details of the room. At last only the faces of the
figures are visible, caught by the rays of light falling
through a narrow window, high out of sight on the wall
above the Secretary's desk.)

FOREIGN WOMAN, MAGICIAN
Mr KOFNER, VERA BORONEL, MAGDA
In endless waiting rooms, the hour stands still.
The light goes pale and thin.
The heart is dead.
We wait in wide-eyed sleep.
What are we waiting for? Perhaps the creaking
of a door or the light play on the wall.
We wait forever, wait.
The answer comes too late or death too soon.
Oh, give us back the earth and make us free.

(One by one, except for Mr Kofner,
the people rise in place)

It is God's gift to me, this ever flowering earth.
Oh, let all flags be burned and guilt be shared.
My brother's shame be mine and his my fare.
Why must we wait in crowded rooms
while aimlessly are spun the wasted suns
and the forgotten moons?
Oh, leave the doors unlocked and light the lamps within.
The silent looms will sing,
the plough will split the rock...
Oh give us back the earth and make us free...

(Slowly, puzzling over the form she has been given,
the Foreign Woman leaves the writing desk and
goes out through the main door. The curtain falls.)