Knowing that I am doing everything possible to shield myself from negative emotions, Rob proclaimed after looking at the HGO upcoming performances: “Anya, you do not want to see this opera for sure”.
My father reads the Russian newspaper Our Texas published in Houston and distributed throughout the Russian speaking population in Texas. “Do you know that there is a Weinberg festival going on in Houston this month?” said my dad and he sounded extremely excited. To be honest with you, it took me a while to remember who Weinberg was. “He is a fantastic composer” he said. “I played most of his symphonies and Shostakovich loved this guy as well, I want to see his opera.” It does not happen too often that my father wants to see an opera so I took his wish seriously. Since I had tickets to this opera anyway, it was decided all three of us would drive to Houston for an opera weekend. I called the theater and purchased the third ticket for my father.
opera_women_prison-350Passenger was shocking. How do you write an opera about concentration camps? What do you use as a musical language? Pretty themes would be totally out of place. The colors were muted, the musical language sharp and descriptive in some places with occasional gunshots and a crying violin in the background. This was such despicable recent history; the Holocaust, which took the lives of some 6 million Jews and millions of others. It is incomprehensible and inhuman and no matter how you describe it there is no way to connect to it. My family lost relatives in the Holocaust, in Babi Yar in Kiev and probably in some other places. Many were fighting in the war and never came back and I still cannot connect to it. I do not understand why anyone would do something like this.
This is dark side that I was trying to avoid from early childhood. It was very difficult because the Soviet teaching curriculum was very heavy on the Second World War for obvious reasons; Russia lost the most of the people in this War. And here I was, facing my fears, brought to life by the Jewish composer Weinberg, who walked from Poland on foot to Russia to avoid being captured by Nazis and put into one of these “charming” places like Auschwitz with only one way in and no way out. We do remember. We remember even if it happened not to us, but to millions like us. We are disgusted that humanity is capable of things like this and this opera did a great job of reminding us about it. MAY IT NEVER EVER HAPPNED TO ANYONE! AMEN!
All of us are passengers of life in a matter of speaking. May our ride be fun, creative, productive and dignified! On a brighter side, after “Passenger” Rigoletto felt like a comedy…and I am trying to bring Gilda, sung by a fantastic Russian soprano, Ulyana Alexchuck for the final concert of Musica Without Borders festival.