Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s The Passenger
is an opera with an incredibly hard, warped and, finally, obviously fortunate life. This opera is about the Auschwitz, about the people who were cogs
in the merciless factory of death
, about crime and punishment which have no term of limitation. Weinberg’s The Passenger
ranges among the main art works dedicated to this theme: from Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter
to Jonathan Littell’s Les Bienveillantes
. And it is one of the best of its kind.
The composer finished the score of The Passenger (libretto of Alexander Medvedev after the novel of the Polish writer Zofia Posmysz) in 1968. The opera was hailed by the composer’s colleagues. Dmitri Shostakovich wrote, This piece is necessary in our time. The Passenger was scheduled to be produced at the Bolshoi Theatre. But it all came to nothing. The theatres cancelled the announced premieres. There was a conspiracy of silence about the opera. For nearly forty years The Passenger was disfavored, and only in 2006 its premiere took place as a semi-stage performance in Moscow. In February 2010 it was performed in a concert version in Novosibirsk. But The Passenger did not start its triumphal march across world stages until its fully-staged premiere was shown at the Bregenz Festival (July 2010). In October 2010 Weinberg’s opera was staged in Warsaw, with subsequent performances in London (2011), Madrid (2012), Karlsruhe (2013), Houston (2014); later in 2014 it was shown at the Lincoln Centre Festival (New-York), and then in Chicago and Frankfurt am Main (both in 2015). In Russia it was performed in concert in Perm in 2014, and in September 2016 the opera had its Russian premiere in Yekaterinburg.
The Moscow premiere of the opera took place on 27 January 2017 at Novaya Opera. The date was chosen on purpose. January 27 is the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day in 1945 the Auschwitz concentration and death camp was liberated by the Soviet Army. And now it is safe to say that the premiere of The Passenger has been an event not only in the cultural but also in the public and international life of our capital.
The Passenger has gathered a stellar team of producers and performers. The stage director of the production is TV director Sergey Shirokov, for whom it is a debut in an opera house. His directing works on TV, however, are known to almost all people in Russia. For many years Sergey Shirokov has been the director of very popular entertainment programmes on the Rossiya TV channel.
The designer is Larisa Lomakina, who is well known to the Moscow audience for her outstanding drama productions in the drama theatre, including her joint projects with the director Konstantin Bogomolov.
The costume designer is the famous Russian fashion designer Igor Chapurin. Apart from his haute coutureworks, he has at various times collaborated with leading drama and ballet theatres in Russia and abroad.
Says stage director Sergei Shirokov:
“For me The Passenger is not just an opera among other pieces of the 20th-century musical theatre. The Passenger has enormous emotional tension; it is an absolutely “direct utterance” which in some scenes is so touching and even sentimental, but at certain points becomes terribly cruel. It is almost an ancient Greek drama – a very intelligible one despite the intricate orchestral coloration and highly expressive vocal speech. The Passenger makes it possible for a contemporary director to use in his work all available means of expression and artistic idioms, including those far apart from traditional operatic stereotypes. In this regard The Passenger is an “open form”. However, it is also a very “classical” piece in which its moral message and ethical axis place strict restrictions on any our fantasies…”