Mieczyslaw Weinberg

The Passenger

The Passenger

Opera in two acts

Music Director and Conductor: Jan Latham-Koenig

Conductor: Andrey Lebedev

Stage Director: Sergey Shirokov

Designer: Larisa Lomakina

Costume Designer: Igor Chapurin

Choirmaster: Yulia Senyukova

Lighting Designer: Aivar Salikhov

Running time: 3 hours with one intermission

Premiered on 27 January 2017

Recommended for 18+

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 couture works, 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…

The Novaya Opera workers consisting of Natalya Kreslina (Marta),Valeria Pfister (Liese),Dmitry Pianov (Walter) and Sergey Shirokov (stage director) have been awarded the Moscow City Literature and Arts Prize in the Musical Art Nomination for producing Weinberg's opera The Passenger.



Novaya Opera has received significant praise for their production of Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s The Passenger, which had its long-awaited premiere in Russia at the Novaya Opera of Moscow on 27 January. The opera was led by music director and conductor Jan Latham-Koenig and featured a stellar cast and impressive stage design by Larissa Lomakina. Reviewers and audience members, including the composer’s daughter, lauded Jan Latham-Koenig and the orchestra for their performance, stating that they “performed perfectly with great care and respect for the music and underlining the nerve and documentary of the setting” (Victoria Weinberg).

ICA International Classical Artists

The music, splendid as it is, produces a strong impression in Jan Latham-Koenig’s interpretation: it is really global power and cosmic grief.

All members of the production team have shown themselves to the best of their ability. Shirokov has made a good realistic production with numerous symbolic and allegoric video inserts: there is a screen over the stage and there we see the main characters’ faces in close up, angry muzzles of growling camp dogs, a birch grove and embraces of lovers from the normal prewar days.

The Novaya Opera’s soloist Natalia Kreslina did not just sing excellently. She did not just manage to make her Marta a courageous martyr. Her Marta is a symbol of eternal sorrow. And the final soliloquy of the ex-prisoner is a binding reflection on the horrors of Europe’s recent history, on memory and its meaning; on the importance of drawing a lesson from the past and not falling into the same trap.

28 January 2017

The Passenger at the Novaya Opera is one of those productions that make us think not only about its form or quality, but also about the global historical, moral and humanistic principles of human existence. And about the disaster that can be brought on by contravention of these principles.

It is another break through in the triumphal return of the outstanding composer’s works to the Russian audience.

Moskovsky Komsomolets,
28 January 2017

The Novaya Opera’s production happens to be the first staging of The Passenger in Moscow with its texture that is most difficult for opera: a concentration camp, human tortures, executions, abuses, and barbed wire. But Weinberg’s opera is not only about the horror of Auschwitz, but also about human conscience, the hell of the pan-human soul suffering from committed crimes and irretrievable losses of lives.

The artists’ work in this production cannot be called acting; it is a collective experience of horror, immersion in anguish, in the nightmare of the senseless annihilation of lives.

The artists sing with incredible sound strain, with intensity, anger and, at the same time, with soulfulness, living whole heartedly through the tragic human lives from the times that cannot be forgotten. Natalia Kreslina (Marta),Valeria Pfister (Lisa),Dmitry Pianov (Walter),Victoria Shevtsova (Katya),Polina Shamaeva (Krystina),Alexandra Saulskaya-Shulyatieva (Bronka) and all the other artists convey Weinberg’s principal message: in order to get over the horrible past, it is not to be forgotten.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta,
30 January 2017


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