Pountney's production — which had its U.S. premiere Jan. 18 at the Houston Grand Opera — features a multi-tiered set, which takes full advantage of the scale of the Armory's Wade Thompson Drill Hall.
The Lincoln Center Festival and the Park Avenue Armory co-present the New York premiere, which 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."
As a complement to performances of The Passenger, the ARC Ensemble — eight senior faculty members from The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto — 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 are free for The Passenger ticketholders.