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The Passenger

The Passenger

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Mieczysław Weinberg’s powerful Holocaust drama Die Passagierin channels his and his family’s ordeals of wartime and Soviet persecution, applying them musically to Zofia Posmysz’s autobiographical novel. The score was praised by Shostakovich for its ‘beauty and greatness’, with a narrative that unfolds on an ocean liner bound for Brazil on which a former Auschwitz guard and one of her Polish prisoners confront impossible moral conflict and harrowing flashbacks in music that is sparse, dark, sardonic and intermittently tender. This acclaimed Oper Graz production draws us movingly into the raw unimaginable madness of this imperishable moment in history.


Under Roland Kluttig’s clear baton the singers are excellent, with Dshamilja Kaiser as Lisa, soprano Nadja Stefanoff’s Marta, plus Will Hartmann’s Walter and Markus Butter as Tadeusz. A neat and intelligent production with excellent acting.

-- Opera Now

This is an opportunity to appreciate perhaps the finest work by one of the finest composers of the 20th Century – a figure of immense significance in the landscape of post-modern classical music.

--New Classics

Bouquets to sopranos Nadja Stefanoff and Tetiana Miyus, respectively. The Graz Philharmonic acquit themselves superbly under the baton of Roland Kluttig.


The opera opens in 1960 on a cruise ship bound for Rio de Janeiro, where the former Auschwitz guard Lisa is travelling with her diplomat husband Walter and she sees one of her former prisoners Marta as a fellow passenger, awakening her memories and fear of being recognized.

While the idiom is often harrowing, the humanity of Weinberg’s music comes through powerfully. His score embraces neo-Romanticism with inflections from Polish, Russian and Jewish music, yet Weinberg imposes his own identity with his harmonic polytonality and freely expressive language, often showing an affinity with Britten, Myaskovsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. This opera reveals Weinberg as among the most neglected of composers and I hope that more of his operas will be performed.

Dshamilja Kaiser’s Lisa is outstanding, providing a complete characterization of this tortured woman who cannot escape her past, and Nadja Stefanoff’s Marta is heartbreaking throughout—although in the first act, she is mostly muted and comes alive only in the second act, when she meets her lover. Her final aria is deeply moving.

The hapless figure of Walter, Lisa’s husband, is well characterised with finely pitched singing and acting by Will Hartmann. Of the other roles, one must mention the Katja of Tetiana Miyus in her beautifully sung Russian lament before her execution. In all, the roles of the other prisoners and the cruise ship passengers are well performed by the Chor der Oper Graz and the orchestra is masterfully directed by Roland Kluttig. The video presentation is clear with well-directed closeups of the most important scenes.

The booklet has a synopsis and an article on the opera with texts in English and German and photos from the opera scenes. There is a two-CD set of the performance available on Capriccio C5455. Recommended to all those interested in 20th century music.

--MusicWeb International

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 2
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Capriccio New Releases
    • UPC/Barcode: 845221054551
    • Item Number: C5455