Weinberg’s Opera Revived in London

From National Public Radio:

A woman named Liese, who had been an SS guard at Auschwitz years before, is on a ship to Brazil with her much older diplomat husband, a man unaware of her past. She spots a fellow passenger she thinks she recognizes: an inmate of hers she thought had died.

Music aficionados have been hailing a lost Soviet-era opera — the plot of which turns on that very moment — as a forgotten masterpiece. The opera has its genesis in the real-life experience of Zofia Posmysz, a Polish Catholic sent to Auschwitz after she was caught reading an anti-Nazi leaflet. Posmysz wrote the novel on which the libretto for The Passenger was based.
Mieczyslaw Weinberg composed the opera, which is set in part in Auschwitz, in 1968, but Soviet authorities wouldn’t allow it to be performed. The Passenger lay undiscovered for four decades — until now. It’s being staged at the English National Opera in London. [….]

The English National Opera production has been playing to packed houses. Pountney says he hopes it will contribute to the rediscovery of Mieczyslaw Weinberg himself.

Weinberg was the only one in his family who got out of Poland in time. In postwar Moscow, he became a decorated composer, seen in the same rank as Prokofiev and Shostakovich. He created a vast body of work, of which The Passenger was considered his masterpiece. Friends say that enormous output sprang from an obsessive need to justify his own survival to his murdered parents and sister.

Read the rest at NPR’s website.

Pro Musica Hebraica will present Weinberg’s famous and beloved “Piano Trio,” now widely regarded as a recovered classic of twentieth-century chamber music, in our November 3 concert. To purchase tickets, click here.

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