Libretto: Alexander Medevdev Based on the novel The Passenger in Cabin 45 by Zofia Posmysz
For the first time in Israel! The mesmerizing opera about women prisoners from all over the world, transported to Auschwitz where they try to remain human and humane in a place that has lost all human form.
A new production originally created by Bregenzer Festspiele, Teatr Wielki Opera Narodowa Warsaw, English National Opera and Teatro Real, Madrid
The project is organised in co-operation with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. Financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland as part of the multi-annual programme NIEPODLEGLA 2017–2022.
Act I The early 1960s, on an ocean liner. Watching over the scene is a chorus who sometimes takes part as prisoners, passengers or officers, and sometimes are merely onlookers from another time, as are we.
Scene i A German diplomat, Walter, and his young wife, Lisa, are on the way to Brazil where he will take up a diplomatic post. Suddenly she sees a fellow passenger who she thinks she recognizes, except that she knows that person to be dead. Under the shock of this encounter, she reveals to her husband for the first time that she was an SS overseer in Auschwitz. The revelation is a crisis for both of them.
Scene ii In the camp, we learn hat the “Passenger” is Martha, a Polish prisoner who Lisa Franz, the overseer, has marked out as someone who could help control the other prisoners.
Scene iii In the female barracks, we meet women from every corner of Europe brought together in this cosmopolitan hell. A suspected Russian partisan, Katja arrives from a brutal interrogation, and the Kapo finds a note in Polish which may implicate her. Lisa orders Martha to read it, and Martha coolly renders it as a love letter – as if to her own fiancée, Tadeusz, who she believes is also a prisoner. Back on the boat, Lisa and Walter try to come to terms with this new background to their relationship.
Scene iv Under Lisa’s supervision the women are sorting belongings looted from the prisoners. An officer arrives demanding a violin. The Governor has ordered a concert at which his favorite waltz should be played by one of the prisoners. Lisa produces a violin, but the officer says he will send the prisoner himself to collect it. The prisoner is Tadeusz. He and Martha have a brief scene of recognition before Lisa interrupts them. She allows them to continue their contact, hoping to capitalize on this “kindness” letter.
Scene v Lisa confronts Tadeusz in the workshop where he produces silver ornaments to order for the SS officers. One is a Madonna which Lisa recognizes as Martha. Lisa offers Tadeusz the chance to meet Martha, but Tadeusz refuses. He does not want to be in Lisa’s debt.
Scene vi In the female barracks it is Martha’s birthday. She sings a song about being in love with death. Lisa interrupts and tries to goad Martha by telling her that Tadeusz turned down a chance to see her, but Martha remains unmoved: if that is what Tadeusz decided, he was right to do so! Yvette tries to teach an old Russian woman French, and Katja sings about Russia. Suddenly guards burst in: it is “selection” time. A list of numbers is broadcast, and one by one various prisoners are taken away. Lisa tells Martha that it is not her turn yet: she will arrange for her to witness Tadeusz’s concert.
Scene vii Back on the boat Lisa and Walter have come to a new understanding. Even if the “Passenger” is Martha, they are determined to brazen it out, and decide to join the dancing in the Salon. Lisa is however horrified when the "Passenger” approaches the band, apparently to make a request, and they start to play the Governor’s
Scene viii Back in the camp it is time for the concert, and all the officers and prisoners are assembled. Tadeusz, however, does not play the waltz, but something else. The scene breaks up in uproar as his violin is smashed and he is dragged off to the death cells.
Epilogue We are left with Martha and her memories – and her longing that all who suffered should not be forgotten.
Back Stage Secrets at the Opera Many Opportunities to Widen your Opera Experience
Do you want to know more about the opera you are about to attend? Do you want to find out some back stage secrets? Do you want to meet the artists after the performance? The Israeli Opera enables you to widen your opera experience with a variety of pre performance and post-performance events.
Towards Opening On Saturday morning before the premiere, the creators of the production and several of the soloists gather to discuss the opera, the production, their own career and today’s opera world. This is a unique opportunity to learn as much as possible about the production and meet the director, conductor, designers and some of the participating soloists. Musical excerpts from the opera illustrate the discussion. Towards Opening takes place before some of each season’s productions.
Pre Performance Lecture One hour before each opera performance there is a 30-minute introductory lecture in the auditorium (in Hebrew). Opera staffers present the opera and the production and enable the audience to get some extra information a short time before attending the performances. Admission is free for ticket holders.
Pre Performance Back Stage Tours What happens backstage before the audience even thinks of getting dressed for the performance? What do the singers do? The conductor? The Technical teams? How does everyone prepare for the performance? A unique opportunity to taste a little bit of the back stage excitement before the curtain ascends/ A concerted half hour tour in places that are not usually open to the general public. Tours begin 90 minute before the performance begins and last 30 minutes. Tickets are 25NIS and can be booked in advance (tickets for each tour are limited). Tours take place on several evenings in each production. Details can be found at the Israeli opera’s website. Tours from groups both in Hebrew and in English can be booked in advance (firstname.lastname@example.org )
Opera Talkback The curtain has just descended on the final scene of the opera. The hour is late. Nut the experience was riveting. This is the time to meet several of the performers. Come to listen and to speak . Ask questions. Meet the artists. A once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the artists who have just excited you on the stage. Opera Talkbacks takes place on the second level of the Opera House foyer and last around 30 minutes. Admission free. Opera Talkback takes place on several evenings in each production . Details can be found on the Israeli Opera’s website.