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Vocal  Menotti: The Medium 
Menotti: The Medium
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Menotti: The Medium
Joyce Castle, mezzo-soprano
Patrice Michaels, soprano
Diane Ragains
Peter Van De Graaf
Barbara Landis
Chicago Opera Theater
Lawrence Rapchak, conductor
Cedille Records CDR 90000 034

"A first-rate recording of a durable classic." (Opera News)

"Chicago Opera Theater brings the story fully and frighteningly to life for the first time on compact disc. Joyce Castle sings the title role . . . with chilling malevolence. Bedi brings to the role [of Monica] a pervasive and affecting sweetness." (Newark Star-Ledger)

"Exudes a riveting theatrical atmosphere." (Dallas Morning News)

Oft-performed but mysteriously absent on recordings, Menotti's eerie opera The Medium has materialized in its first recording in more than a quarter century. This two-act "musical drama" is about a fake psychic whose surprise encounter with the unknown leads to murder and mayhem. It is stage a dozen times annually in the US alone. Yet, recordings haven't been available for years, and (until now) it has never appeared on CD.

A "sensational success" for Menotti (Kobbé's Opera Book), the present version of The Medium had its premiere February 18, 1947 at New York's Heckscher Theater. New York Times music critic Olin Downes wrote, "we have here the quality of opera. It is dramatic music, emphatic in action as well as feeling, and in essence song, which is what opera must be. No other American composer has shown the inborn talent that Mr. Menotti, an Italian by descent, unquestionable possesses for the lyric theater." Critic (and composer) Virgil Thomson called it a "first-class musico-theatrical work . . . the most gripping operatic narrative [he] has witnessed in many a year . . .[It] wrings every heart string, and the music is thoroughly touching."

Its success led to Broadway, where it opened on May 1, 1947, at the Ethel Barrymore Theater for a run of 211 performances. "Deaf (in the musical sense) as I am," wrote Saturday Review's drama critic, John Mason Brown, "I responded to Mr. Menotti's score and felt its rightness for its book . . . they fused with arresting results." New Yorker drama critic John Lardner described "an enraptured audience, which kept shouting 'Viva!', 'Encore!', and even, now and then, 'Bis!'"

In Cedille's recording, Miss Castle brings to the title role a finely crafted interpretation developed through two stage productions comprising more than forty performances. A favorite of the Metropolitan and New York City operas, she has performed and recorded a wide variety of 20th century music. Her association with the operas of Menotti, which began early in her career, includes The Saint of Bleecker Street, The Consul, and The Old Maid and the Thief.

As Monica, Miss Michaels reprises the role she played with great success in Chicago Opera Theater's 1992 production. The Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "Patrice Michaels Bedi offered a deft balance between innocence and knowledge. Her bright soprano was a ray of youthful sunlight."

The 1992 production, which likewise featured Miss Ragains in the role of Mrs. Gobineau, was the genesis for Cedille's recording, according to label producer James Ginsburg.

Produced by Ginsburg and recorded by Grammy award-winning engineer Lawrence Rock, Cedille's The Medium includes sound effects (gunshots, the cracking of a whip, and more) to aid the listener's imagination, in the tradition of radio drama. Ginsburg explains, "After the music was recorded, effects were added to emphasize events, gestures, and emotions, and to help create an atmosphere of dramatic immediacy." Scenes involving movement were blocked out and performed before an array of microphones for added realism, Ginsburg says.
Click here to download the CD booklet.

Click the Cedille Player at the upper left to hear excerpts from the tracks highlighted in red below. These have been carefully chosen as representative of the recording program.

PROGRAM (62:05)

Gian Carlo Menotti
The Medium

Act I (29:56)

1. Introduction (1:38)
2. "Where, oh, where" - Monica (1:56)
3. "Be careful, Babas coming!" - Monica (1:13)
4. "Where have you been all night?" - Monica (0:48)
5. "Get ready! Hurry!" - Baba (0:38)
6. "Good evening, Madame Flora" - Mrs. Gobineau (0:33)
7. "Is this the first time" - Mrs. Gobineau (1:38)
8. "It happened long ago" - Mrs. Gobineau (2:07)
9. "Its time to begin" - Baba (0:55)
10. "You must be very silent" - Mr. Gobineau (1:12)
11. "Mother, mother, are you there?" - Monica (1:13)
12. "Doodly, Doodly, are you happy?" - Mrs. Nolan (0:48)
13. "Mummy, Mummy dear" - Monica (1:13)
14. "Mother, mother, are you there?" - Monica (0:48)
15. "Send my son to me . . ." - Mr. Gobineau (1:14)
16. "What is it? Who is it?" - Baba (1:16)
17. "But why be afraid?" - Mr. Gobineau (0:36)
18. "Baba, what has happened?" - Monica (1:22)
19. "Where is Toby?" - Baba (1:32)
20. "The sun has fallen" - Monica (2:08)
21. "The spools unravel" - Monica (1:56)
22. "Oh God! What is happening to me!" - Baba (1:46)

Act II (31:56)
23. Introduction (2:12)
24. "Bravo!" (Monicas Waltz) - Monica (1:25)
25. "What is the matter Toby?" - Monica (3:57)
26. Babas entrance (1:47)
27. "Toby, you know that I love you" - Baba (1:40)
28. "But first you must tell me" - Baba (1:40)
29. "Perhaps it was not you after all" - Baba (1:54)
30. "Good evening, Madame Flora" - Mrs. Gobineau and Mrs. Nolan (2:05)
31. "Not to know my daughters own voice?" - Mrs. Nolan (1:00)
32. "Please let us have our seance, Madame Flora" - The Gobineaus and Mrs. Nolan (0:57)
33. "And you, you too get out" - Baba (1:22)
34. Tobys exit (0:56)
35. "Mother, mother, are you there?" - Girls Voice (1:03)
36. "Afraid, am I afraid?" - Baba (2:35)
37. "The dead never come back" - Baba (1:54)
38. "O God, forgive my sins" - Baba (2:40)
39. "Whos there?" - Baba (0:54)
40. "Ive killed the ghost!" - Baba (1:40)

Recorded: November 12, 16, 17, & 23, 1996 in Bennet-Gordon Hall at Ravinia, Highland Park, Illinois / Producer: James Ginsburg / Co-Executive Producer: Barre Seid / Engineer: Lawrence Rock / Production Assistant: David Dieckmann / Cover: Carol Rosegg / Design: Cheryl A Boncuore / Notes: Andrea Lamoreaux