Menotti’s “The Medium”: A Spooky Connection with the Spirit World

Above: Vintage video of the 1948 live TV performance of The Medium by Gian Carlo Menotti

Did you hear that? That thing that just went bump in the night? Maybe it’s just the black cat dragging in another wayward trick-or-treater. Or maybe it’s something stirring in the world beyond.

Gian Carlo Menotti’s 1946 opera The Medium brings the dark side of the spirit world to life on stage, as charlatan séance leader Madame Flora’s meltdown in one of her own bogus séances sends her spiraling to the brink of insanity, eventually ending in tragedy. Composed at the height of American “séance fever,” The Medium doesn’t prove whether or not there are such things as ghosts. But it does stand as a testament to the power of suggestion to transform itself into belief and to turn the mind against itself. In other words, if The Medium tells us anything, it is that we have boundless power to haunt ourselves, that we can become our own ghosts.

In the Dec. 12, 1948 CBS “Studio One” live television performance of The Medium (see video above), Contralto Marie Powers is a commanding Madame Flora, one of her signature roles. Lois Hunt is a convincing ingenue as Madame Flora’s abetting daughter, Monica. And the ghost? Well, you tell me.

So, this Halloween take a walk on the dark side with Menotti’s The Medium.

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