Lincoln Center Presents an Opera Without Jews, Set in Auschwitz

[from Tablet Magazine]

‘The Passenger’ is a moving Polish Jewish-Catholic Soviet hybrid with a glaring omission. But is it a ‘Holocaust opera’?

The Lincoln Center Festival’s publicity for an opera titled The Passenger, aimed at New Yorkers eager for an unusual musical experience, is magnetic: a “forgotten Holocaust opera,” as the copy calls it, adding that Dmitri Shostakovich hailed it “a perfect masterpiece.” Completed by the Polish-Jewish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg in 1968, much of the opera is set in Auschwitz. But beyond a few lines given to a Jewish character, there’s no explicit Jewish presence in this concentration camp. Seeing the work, it’s hard to believe: An opera set in the killing factory known for subtracting Jews from the world, and it subtracts Jews.

The main characters of The Passenger are two Polish gentiles and a German camp officer, surrounded by an international array of women packed into a barracks. They come from Warsaw, Zagreb, and other cities—and then there’s one Greek Jew. Her name is Hannah and she has so little to sing—“This star they pinned on me, this star I have to wear is the fatal mark of my death,” is most of it—that she’s easy to miss.

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