Polish opera in Chicago
PR dla Zagranicy
‘The Passenger’, an opera on the theme of Auschwitz by Mieczysław Weinberg, has been premiered at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.
The opera will run until 15 March. Photo: lyricopera.org
It was conducted by Sir Andrew Davis and directed by David Pountney, the prominent British opera producer, who presented the opera's first staged production at the Bregenz Festival in 2010, and later at the National Opera in Warsaw.
The Passenger was composed in 1968 to a libretto by Alexander Medvedev based on a short story by the Polish writer Zofia Posmysz, a former Auschwitz prisoner.
It is set in Auschwitz during the war and on an ocean liner en-route from Europe to South America in the late 1950s. The two main protagonists are Liese, the wife of a German diplomat, who had served as an SS guard in the Nazi-German camp Auschwitz , and a fellow passenger, who is the spitting image of Marta, a Polish prisoner at the camp. The encounter with Marta forces Liese to confront the truth about her past.
The American mezzo-soprano Daveda Karans, who sings the part of Liese, made a visit to Auschwitz as part of preparations for the production.
She later said: “you really don't understand the true horror of what happened until you go to Auschwitz and walk on the grounds there. I came away having felt the history and the sadness of that place, something I won't forget.”
The production won very favourable reviews, with one Canadian critic writing: “After 40 years of neglect, The Passenger is an opera that deserves to be heard.”
There are five more performances until 15 March.
Born into a Jewish family in Warsaw in 1919, Mieczysław Weinberg spent the first two decades of his life in Poland. In 1939, he fled from the Nazis eastwards, eventually settling in Moscow, where he lived till his death in 1996, at the age of 77. His music is currently undergoing a revival. (mk/rg)