Opera: The Passenger


The Passenger which is having its UK premiere at the ENO's Coliseum, is a lavish production with a great cast. It is a pity that the music does not live up to the standards of production. By interval I found it to be hard going with little reward from the Shostakovitch-like score. However upon heading to the bar for interval drinks I found myself listening to an elderly gentleman also heading to the bar who thought it was brilliant and compared it to Shakespeare. Or Shakespeare with a lot of clanging...

Following that brief discussion, it seemed like it would be too easy to leave and not come back for the second half. So @Johnnyfoxlondon and I returned to the general area of our seats. The lady next to me in the first half who was texting on her phone throughout and laughing at rather serious parts of the piece had not returned so we had room to spread out. Fortunately in the second half, the music and story is much stronger. There are also a surprising blend of styles including traditional folk music and jazz, which helps to keep things believable.

This work, by Soviet composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg, was written in 1968 and did not have its first performance until 2006. The reasons for this are not made clear but maybe he just wasn't the fashion of the day in Soviet-era Russia. He did have first-hand experience with the subject matter however since Weinberg lost most of his family due to the holocaust. This opera tells the story of a real-life concentration camp survivor who meets her captor and her liberator on a boat to South America. The scene is set for fragments of recollections, guilt and the inevitable horrors from the period.

The piece attempts to musicalise what is inherently unmusical and by the end of the piece you can't help but have some admiration for the effort. The split level production moves between modern ocean liner and concentration camp quickly, but maybe in this case a smaller scale production might have matched what is essentially a story of two women. A sombre and reflective evening evening at the opera.

There are six more performances spaced between now and the end of October... All told, it is probably worth catching to see a lost opera that is unlikely to be staged again anytime soon...

Popular posts from this blog

Opera and full frontal nudity: Rigoletto

Opera: The Minotaur

Keeping up appearances: The House of Bernarda Alba @SpanishTheatreC