The Passenger Premieres at the Bregenzer Festspiele

Photo from the the rehearsal of "The Passager", photo: Karl Forster

This year's Bregenzer Festpiele honours the Polish composer Mieczysław Weinberg and presents the world premiere of The Passenger, Weinberg's first opera, based on the moving novel by Zofia Posmysz of the same title

Zofia Posmysz's Passenger (Pasażerka) is the first instance in fine literature of an attempt to reflect concentration camp realities and the Holocaust from the point of view of the perpetrators. Mieczysław Weinberg's opera, based on this work, is the only one in the world dedicated to the Holocaust, written by composer of the "war" generation. The opera has been previously shown only in its concert version in Moscow in 2006.

The action takes place on a transatlantic vessel sailing from Europe to South America at the end of the 1950s, and partly in a concentration camp between 1943-1944. One of the passengers on the ship is Liza, the wife of a German diplomat who's sailing to his new post in Brazil. It turns out that Liza was once an SS guard at Auschwitz. To her shock, one of the passengers resembles Marta, a Polish prisoner at the concentration camp whom she had once attempted to befriend.


The Passenger in Bregenz is directed by David Pountney, the artistic director of the Festival. The show features three Polish singers: Artur Ruciński, Agnieszka Rehlis and Elżbieta Wróblewska. The soloists will be accompanied by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and Prague Philharmonic Choir.

A number of other activities will be organised around Mieczysław Weinberg's work and his person during the opera festival in Bregenz, including an academic symposium, a concert series and a biographical exhibition entitled Passenger. Broadcast, Film, Story, Opera, which presents the story of the Passenger as a radio broadcast, televised drama, film, literature and, finally, an opera, along with the presentation of certain real-life archetypes of the story's fictional characters. The exhibition will last through the end of the festival (August 22). It will then travel to Warsaw, where the Polish premiere of Weinberg's Passenger is planned at the Grand Theatre - National Opera on October 8.

This year's presentation of Mieczysław Weinberg's opera at the opera festival in Bregenz is the fruit of last year's installation dedicted to Karol Szymanowski and his opera King Roger. In 2012, subsequent premieres of Passenger are planned in London, Madrid, Berlin and New York.

The opera's production is a joint undertaking of the Bregenzer Festspiele and the Grand Theatre - National Opera in Warsaw, while the coordinator of the exhibition Passenger. Broadcast, Film, Story, Opera is the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Warsaw.

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