Die Passagierin / The Passenger

Opera in two acts, eight pictures and one epilog by Mieczysław Weinberg Libretto by Alexander Medwedew after Zofia Posmysz's tale of the same name

Premiere 24. June 2017

Multilingual performance with German and English supertitles


On an ocean liner the former SS camp guard Lisa meets one of the old inmates, Marta. Suddenly the past impinges on the present, dredging up memories of a horrific reality that, only a few years after the end of the war, has been hushed up. Against the background of the concentration camp, Weinberg’s opera is an eternal warning against the premature suppression and forgetting of dreadful human crimes.


Act 1
Scene 1. Transatlantic Liner
1960. Lisa is travelling to Brasil with her husband Walter, a German diplomat at the height of his career. Lisa suddenly sees another passenger who looks like someone she was certain had died – Marta. She is so disturbed by the memories that come fleading back that she confesses to Walter that she was a SS warder in Auschwitz during the war. This revelation rocks their marriage. Walter fears a possible diplomatic scandal. Lisa asks a steward to find out where the woman comes from.
Scene 2. RollCall
1944. Morning roll call in the concentration camp. Three bored SS men exchange cynical words about the prisoners. Lisa selects a female Polish inmate to help her keep watch. It is Marta.
Scene 3. Barracks
Women from all over Europe find themselves in the female barracks. They sense death in every corner of the camp. An overseer finds a note written in Polish. Marta is to translate it, out loud. To protect the resistance movement, she pretends it is a love letter to her fiancé, Tadeusz.

Act 2
Scene 4. Storeroom
Women are sorting through other prisoner’s personal effects. An SS man is looking for a violin. A prisoner is to play the Commandant’s favourite waltz at a concert in the camp. This prisoner is Tadeusz. He is sent to fetch the violin. He sees Marta. Lisa breaks the rules and allows them to meet.
Scene 5. Workshop
Tadeusz makes jewellery in the workshop for SS offi cers. Lisa enters and finds a medallion featuring the Madonna, with Marta’s face. She offers him another chance to meet Marta. Tadeusz refuses. He does not want to be in debt to Lisa.
Scene 6. Barracks
Marta’s twentieth birthday. The other prisoners wish her freedom. Marta sings a song about death. Lisa fi nds Marta’s roses from Tadeusz. She starts to provoke Marta by telling her that Tadeusz refused another chance to meet her. Marta remains calm, trusting Tadeusz completely. Ivette is teaching French to Bronka, a Russian inmate. Katja sings a song about Russia. A voice is heard, the Selektion (the list of the next people to be executed) is being read out. Lisa has spared Marta so that she can attend Tadeusz’ concert.
Scene 7. Transatlantic Liner
In their cabin, Lisa and Walter decide to forget the past. They go to the saloon to dance. The female passenger makes a music request. The Commandant’s favourite waltz is played.
Scene 8. Concert
Officers and prisoners gather for the concert. Tadeusz plays Bach’s Chaconne instead of the waltz for the Commandant. His violin is destroyed as he is taken from the stage by SS men.
Epilogue. By the River
Marta is alone, thinking about Tadeusz and her friends. She hopes that all those who suffered and lost their life in the camp will never be forgotten.