Mieczyslaw Weinberg Opera The Passenger Gets U.S. Premiere Jan. 18 at Houston Grand Opera
By Michael Gioia
The Passenger, Mieczyslaw Weinberg's 1968 opera about the Holocaust, performed by the Houston Grand Opera and directed by David Pountney, has its U.S. premiere Jan. 18 at the Houston Grand Opera. The Lincoln Center Festival and the Park Avenue Armory will co-present the New York premiere this summer.
Pountney's production — which will be seen July 10-13 at Lincoln Center Festival 2014 — features a multi-tiered set, which will take full advantage of the scale of the Armory's Wade Thompson Drill Hall.
The cast includes Michelle Breedt as Liese, Joseph Kaiser as Walter, Melody Moore as Marta, Morgan Smith as Tadeusz, Kelly Kaduce as Katya and Kathryn Day as Bronka.
The Passenger features a libretto by Aleksandr Medvedev based on the novel by Zofia Posmysz. The work is performed in English, with translation from the original languages by David Fanning and Pountney.
Here's how The Passenger is billed: "Set in the late 1950s, the opera depicts a German couple, Liese and Walter, on board an ocean liner where Liese, a former SS officer, thinks she recognizes among their fellow passengers one of her erstwhile Auschwitz prisoners. Juxtaposed with scenes on board the luxury ship are flashbacks to the dark underworld where she once wielded control. Liese is never able to confirm whether the woman she sees is truly Marta, the Polish prisoner she once manipulated, and The Passenger makes no attempt at closure or reconciliation. Instead, the harsh and complex realities of the mass murder Liese helped perpetrate, and of her inescapable guilt, are unsparingly confronted."
Performances at the Armory will be offered July 10, 12 and 13, 2014.
The creative team includes conductor Patrick Summers, set designer Johan Engels, costume designer Marie-Jeanne Lecca, lighting designer Fabrice Kebour, fight director Leraldo Anzaldúa, associate director Rob Kearley and chorus master Richard Bado.
As a complement to performances of The Passenger, the ARC Ensemble — eight senior faculty members from The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto — will perform three chamber concerts featuring works by composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg in the Board of Officers Room at Park Avenue Armory prior to each performance of the opera. These prelude concerts will be free for The Passenger ticketholders.
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