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An Insider's Guide to THE PASSENGER

The Chicago premiere of Weinberg's The Passenger is on stage at Lyric from February 24 through March 15. Discover this poignant, gripping, and intimate 20th-century masterpiece, which portrays the story of the Holocaust from the perspectives of both victim and perpetrator, through interviews with the cast and creative team, audio previews, and more. 

 

The final opera of Lyric's 60th Anniversary season is the Chicago premiere of Mieczysław Weinberg's The Passenger, on stage from February 24 through March 15. This poignant and gripping 20th-century masterpiece portrays the story of the Holocaust from the perspectives of both victim and perpetrator, and was only recently rediscovered after more than 40 years of suppression.

In the early 1960s, Liese (Daveda Karanas) travels aboard an ocean liner bound for Brazil with her diplomat husband Walter (Brandon Jovanovich) while hiding a terrible secret: she was once an SS officer at Auschwitz. When she thinks she recognizes a fellow passenger as Marta (Amanda Majeski), one of her former inmates, she is forced to confront the truth about her past. The story moves back and forth from the ship to the camp, focusing on key events including Marta's reunion with her lover, Tadeusz (Joshua Hopkins), and Marta's friendships with Katya (Kelly Kaduce) and Bronka (Liuba Sokolova).

The Passenger is conducted by Sir Andrew Davis and directed by David Pountney, with set designs by the late Johan Engels, costumes by Marie-Jeanne Lecca, and lighting by Fabrice Kebour.

To supplement the mainstage performances of The Passenger, Lyric also presents "Memory and Reckoning," a confluence of activities that will add resonance and perspective to the themes and messages in Weinberg's opera through musical performances, a film screening, exploratory discussions, and the world premiere of The Property, a newly commissioned klezmer opera. Click here to learn more about these supplemental events, which run January through March.

Click here to read the plot synopsis, director's note, and more
in the complete program book for The Passenger.
 

Learn more about the world of The Passenger with this opera companion
 

Click here to learn more about The Property in the complete program book. 

Director David Pountney invites you to The Passenger

 

Articles with insights from the cast and creative team:

Pathways to Discovery: Exploring The Passenger and The Property
Lyric's general director Anthony Freud discusses the importance of presenting The Passenger and "Memory and Reckoning" events in this article from Lyric Opera News: "As the son of a Holocaust survivor, Freud notes that he can 'be rather cynical about works of art that have been inspired by the Holocaust. However, The Passenger is different from most. It's not sentimental or simplistic or melodramatic. It's a complex, very moving, very human story.'" READ MORE  

Zofia Posmysz and The Passenger: A Survivor's Story
7566. If you listen to the roll call of prisoners in Act One of The Passenger, you'll hear a series of numbers called over a loudspeaker (in German) by the overseer. 7566 is the number Zofia Posmysz was assigned in Auschwitz. At age 91, she still bears the tattoo on her left arm. In 1942, Posymsz, an 18-year-old student in Krakow, was accused of distributing flyers for the Polish resistance and arrested. She would spend the next three years of her life in Nazi concentration camps, first Auschwitz and later Auschwitz-Birkenau (an extermination camp in the Auschwitz network), where she worked as a bookkeeper in the kitchen. READ MORE   


In the Footsteps of Evil: Daveda Karanas visits Auschwitz
When Daveda Karanas appears in the Lyric premiere of The Passenger, she'll perform with a special perspective on the opera. Her portrayal of Liese&mdsah;a former overseer of inmates at Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II—will be significantly influenced by the American mezzo-soprano's recent visit to Auschwitz itself. READ MORE

Lyric Opera Orchestra Members on Weinberg and The Passenger
This season, Lyric Unlimited has teamed up with a number of cultural institutions for an incredible series of discussions, a film screening, the world premiere of a new klezmer opera, The Property, and chamber music performances featuring members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra. The chamber music concerts feature more of Weinberg's compelling and emotional music. We reached out to the members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra who are participating in these "Memory and Reckoning" concerts to gain insight on their experience with this music. READ MORE

Backstage Look: Creating Hair and Makeup for The Passenger
Lyric's wigmaster Sarah Hatten, now entering her fourth season as the head of this crucial department, takes us inside the process for creating the hair and makeup for Weinberg’s The Passenger. With an opera based on historical events, the challenge is to make every aspect of the production look as realistic as possible. And as surprising as it might seem, recreating real life on stage is usually more difficult than creating whimsical or fantastic wigs and makeup. READ MORE

Behind the Scenes of The Property
Lyric Unlimited has commissioned a new opera, The Property, to be presented in tandem with the Chicago premiere of Mieczsław Weinberg's The Passenger on the Lyric mainstage. A true fusion of opera and klezmer music, The Property brings Israeli author Rutu Modan's graphic novel to life in a captivating story about reclaiming the past, and finding your future. READ MORE

The Passenger Audio Preview

Music director Sir Andrew Davis shares the synopsis and excerpts from Weinberg's The Passenger. Recordings used by permission of EMI Classics and Peermusic Classical.

Subjects:

An Insider's Guide to CAROUSEL

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel at Lyric (on stage April 10 through May 3) is the most eagerly anticipated musical event of the spring season. Learn more about this new production and its outstanding cast and creative team through articles, video, and more. 

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel at Lyric is the most eagerly anticipated musical event of the spring season. This brand-new production is helmed by eminent director/choreographer Rob Ashford and features the Lyric debuts of conductor David Chase (a New York favorite and longtime collaborator of Ashford's) and artist Paolo Ventura as set designer, plus costumes from Catherine Zuber, the acclaimed designer who has won multiple Tony Awards and who costumed Ashford's delightful Barber of Seville in Lyric's 2013-14 season. 

The behind-the-scenes talent is amazing, and the cast is astounding. Broadway favorite Steven Pasquale and two-time Tony nominee Laura Osnes star as carousel barker Billy Bigelow and his beloved Julie Jordan. International operatic star Denyce Graves, known for her fiery interpretations of the title role in Bizet's Carmen, takes on her first full-length musical theater role as Nettie Fowler. 

Carousel is on stage at Lyric from April 10 through May 3, and this page is your source for all of the behind-the-scenes info. 

 Director Rob Ashford on Carousel

 

 Articles with insights on the cast and creative team

Carousel Comes to Lyric
Director Rob Ashford talks about the creative process for Carousel in this article from Lyric Opera News. "Every new production of a musical or opera has a unique journey to the stage but some, like Lyric's Carousel, are especially unusual. Five years ago director-choreographer Rob Ashford saw an exhibition in New York, 'Winter Stories,' by Italian artist Paolo Ventura. 'Part of it was set around a carnival,' Ashford recalls. 'It was so moving and beautiful. I was so captivated by it, I said, 'If I ever do Carousel,  that is the person who must design it.'" READ MORE

Broadway at Lyric: Steven Pasquale and Laura Osnes tackle Carousel
Carousel is coming to Lyric April 10 through May 3—and its two leads are bringing a bit of the Great White Way to Wacker Drive. Steven Pasquale and Laura Osnes star as carousel barker Billy Bigelow and his true love, innocent millworker Julie Jordan. Pasquale most recently stole hearts starring in The Bridges of Madison County on Broadway opposite Kelli O'Hara, and he's currently playing the handsome and passionate campaign manager Johnny Elfman on CBS's The Good Wife. At just 29, Osnes is already a two-time Tony nominee, first for Bonnie and Clyde and then for the recent revival of Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella, and she is thrilled for this opportunity to "check another R&H heroine off my dream-role list." READ MORE

You asked, they answered! Q&A with the Carousel cast
The brand-new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel  at Lyric Opera of Chicago is just about two weeks away! While you're counting down to our April 10 opening, be sure to read more about how the cast is preparing for their roles. Steven Pasquale, Laura Osnes, Jenn Gambatese, Matthew Hydzik, Denyce Graves, and Jarrod Emick all took a moment out of their incredibly busy rehearsal schedule to answer these questions from their social media followers. READ MORE

Meet Steven Pasquale – Lyric’s Billy Bigelow
Billy Bigelow is one of the most demanding roles in musical theater. Lyric's leading man Steven Pasquale has a long list of credits on stage and screen. You might recognize him from his current role on the CBS hit The Good Wife —here are three of our favorite Steven Pasquale moments from past projects including Rescue Me and the Tony-nominated musical The Bridges of Madison County. READ MORE

Denyce Graves Breaks All the Rules
Superstar mezzo Denyce Graves returns to Lyric for the first time since 2005 to star in Lyric's new production of Carousel. Joining Broadway star Steven Pasquale's Billy Bigelow, Graves anchors the cast as Nettie Fowler, who acts as a mother hen to the New England waterfront community depicted by Rodgers and Hammerstein. READ MORE

From Broadway to Lyric: Exploring musical theater
Carousel marks Lyric's third production in its American Musical Theater Initiative, following 2012-13's Oklahoma! and last season's The Sound of Music. General director Anthony Freud talks about the genesis of this project and how it is changing the face of the company in this article from the Porgy and Bess program book. READ MORE

Lyric U: Sopranos – how high can you go?

Get to know the soprano voice type with Renée Fleming, Anthony Freud, and Sir Andrew Davis in our latest Lyric U voice series installment. Plus hear examples of great soprano arias from some of the operas still on deck for this season: Anna Bolena, Tosca, Porgy and Bess, and Tannhäuser.

The soprano voice is one of the most recognizable in opera, with many famous arias and indelible images (Brünnhilde in a Viking hat, anyone?) that are immediately recognizable.

But what exactly is a soprano? And what kind of roles does that voice usually portray in opera? In our latest Lyric U video, Lyric's own Anthony Freud, Sir Andrew Davis, and Renée Fleming discuss the soprano with a few key musical excerpts sprinkled throughout.

 

Looking for some outstanding soprano roles at Lyric?  Here are just a few of the great arias featured this season.

Anna Bolena - "Coppia iniqua"

Donizetti's bel canto gem tells the story of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and Jane Seymour. Though it takes some historical license, all is forgiven when the singers' vocal fireworks are unleashed. Sondra Radanovsky takes on the role here at Lyric from December 6 through January 16. Here is Anna Netrebko performing "Coppia iniqua" from the Metropolitan Opera's 2011 production:

 

Tosca - "Vissi d'arte"

This season features one of the greatest soprano roles, the diva to end all divas: Tosca. Puccini's gut-wrenching story features a number of incredible musical moments, but none is quite so magical as "Vissi d'arte," Tosca's beautiful aria describing how she's lived for art and love, only to have fate turn against her. This season, you have two chances to hear this wonderful piece interpreted with Tatiana Serjan and Hui He both starring in the new-to-Lyric production from January 24 to March 14.

Here's Sondra Radvanovsky performing the aria in the Metropolitan Opera's production from 2011:

 

Porgy and Bess - "Summertime"

"Summertime" is arguably the most famous aria from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess—and it has become a popular tune outside the opera (here's ample evidence!). The great Kathleen Battle performs the opera's opening aria with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, led by Charles Dutoit:

 

Tannhäuser - "Dich, teure Halle"

Ryan Opera Center alumna Amber Wagner does double-duty this season; in addition to portraying Leonora in Il Trovatore, she comes back in February for Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser, which features some of the composer's most majestic music. If you missed Amber Wagner performing this at Lyric's 60th Anniversary Concert,  here is a historic recording of the incomparable Birgit Nilsson performing Elisabeth's greeting, "Dich, teure Halle":

 

Il Trovatore - "Tacea la notte placida"

Verdi's Il Trovatore is filled with show-stopping numbers, including the Anvil Chorus, but the character of Leonora has a beautiful aria in Act 2 describing the first time she heard the serenade of the troubadour Manrico. Amber Wagner took on the role at Lyric in October and November, and here is Barbara Frittoli in a production from La Scala in 2001:

 

Photo credits:

  • Sondra Radvanovsky in Anna Bolena (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Adina Aaron in Porgy and Bess (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Tatiana Serjan (credit Todd Rosenberg)
  • Hui He (courtesy Zemsky/Green Artist Managment)
  • Amber Wagner at Lyric's 60th Anniversary Concert (credit Michael Brosilow / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Amber Wagner in Verdi's Il Trovatore (credit Michael Brosilow / Lyric Opera of Chicago)

(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.)

Lyric U: Baritones in opera

Have you tuned into Lyric U? Check out our new video library, which starts with an in-depth exploration of the baritone in opera with Sir Andrew Davis, Anthony Freud, and Renée Fleming. Plus, check out some video highlights of the greatest baritone arias on stage this season.

Have you tuned in to Lyric U? It's Lyric's new resource for things opera, giving everyone an easy way to explore, discover, and engage. Whether you're new to the art form and looking for Opera 101 or an aficionado who wants to earn a PhD in Advanced Opera Studies, let Lyric U guide the way with this ever-expanding video library.

One of the new features on Lyric U is "From Soprano to Bass: Exploring Voice in Opera." Sir Andrew Davis, Renée Fleming, and Anthony Freud are your guides through the seven different categories of the human voice in this in-depth video series.

The first video in the series focuses on the baritone. This vocal range might be stuck in the middle of tenor and bass, but the baritone is definitely not a voice that can be easily overlooked. Some of the most famous roles in opera are portrayed by baritones-the ultimate bad boy in Mozart's Don Giovanni, the resourceful fixer Figaro in Rossini's The Barber of Seville, the king of the gods Wotan in Wagner's Ring cycle, and the great title roles in Verdi's Rigoletto, Falstaff, and Simon Boccanegra

 

Want to hear more? Below are video samples of some of the great baritone showcases that you can hear as part of Lyric's 2014-15 season.

Il Trovatore  - "Il balen del suo sorriso"

In Act 2 "The Gypsy" of Verdi's Il Trovatore, the villainous Count di Luna sings of his devotion to Leonora, who has decided to enter a convent because she believes her true love Manrico is dead. Though di Luna's song speaks to a beautiful love, he is actually plotting to kidnap her - thinking that the convent is the only obstacle to their happiness. Ryan Opera Center alum Quinn Kelsey takes on the role at Lyric from October 27 to November 29. 

 

(Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Metropolitan Opera, 2011)

Porgy and Bess  - "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'"

This quintessential American opera has many timeless songs, including "Summertime" and "Bess, You Is My Woman Now, but one of Porgy's most famous arias is this ode to his simple life. Lyric favorite Eric Owens brings this iconic role to Chicago from November 17 to December 20. 

 

(Lawrence Winters, Columbia Masterworks recording, 1951)

Tosca - Te Deum

Scarpia, the police chief who is ruthlessly hunting the rebel artist Cavaradossi, sings of his lust and terrible plan to force Tosca into loving him, against the backdrop of a prayer. This season, two singers take on this villianous role: Evgeny Nikitin (Lyric debut, January 24 to February 5) and Mark Delavan (February 27 to March 14). 

 

(George Gagnidze, Metropolitan Opera, 2009)

Tannhäuser  - "O du mein holder Abendstern" (Song of the Evening Star)

This aria from Act 3 of Tannhäuser is in the pantheon of one of the most beautiful arias ever written, and is one of Wagner's most haunting melodies. Wolfram von Eschenbach loves the faithful and chaste Elisabeth, but she is in love with Tannhäuser; in this aria, he has a premonition of her death. Gerald Finley stars as Wolfram at Lyric from February 9 to March 6. 

 

(Peter Mattei, Staatsoper Berlin, 2014)

Don Giovanni  - "Deh vieni all finestra"

While posing as his right-hand man Leporello, Don Giovanni serenades the maid of his former conquest Donna Elvira with this lovely aria from Act Two. Mariusz Kwiecień stars in Lyric's hot-blooded new production through October 29. 

 

(Bryn Terfel, Metropolitan Opera, 2000)

Photo credits:

  • Top row: Quinn Kelsey (credit Dan Rest / Lyric Opera of Chicago); Evgeny Nikitin (credit Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera)
  • Bottom row: Eric Owens in Porgy and Bess (credit Terrence McCarthy / San Francisco Opera); Mariusz Kwiecień stars as the title role in Don Giovanni (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)

(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.)

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