Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s great opera The Passenger received its US premiere in Houston last night and we await first reviews. In the meantime, here’s how the production felt like from the inside by the young Welsh soprano, Natalya Anna Romaniw, exclusive to Slipped Disc.
I first saw The Passenger as an audience member at ENO in 2011. As I watched, I knew then it was a special piece and as luck would have it, the opera world is small enough that I am able to be a part of it now in 2014 as HGO premieres Weinberg’s masterpiece in the USA.
From a performer’s perspective the show is extremely challenging, not only musically but emotionally too. We, as singing actors, know that we are telling someone’s story, perhaps not by name, or character but someone who once existed and experienced these terrible things that burdened the victims of Auschwitz every second of every day.
We are going home after the performance and we have warmth, food, clothes and even water, at our disposal. It’s hard not to get emotional when singing this beautiful piece and I know it is something I’ve watched us all struggle coming to terms with. It really makes you think about todays society and how much we all take so many things for granted. It also makes you think about the stories of the lives of the SS officers, how they were affected and did they want to do their jobs? Did they have a choice? Did they have souls at all? The Passenger takes the audience into those characters’ lives. Certainly as performers, it is an incredibly exhausting emotional journey that leads us all into feeling slightly uncomfortable in taking a curtain call. This is something that I vividly remember at ENO, as an audience member. My eyes, filled with tears and my heart, aching with sympathy, didn’t know whether to clap or not … because it is so real and it is told and painted so well by Weinberg that we all find it very hard to take both as audience members and performers.