The scenic fate of The Passenger was complex. Dmitry Shostakovich unsuccessfully fought for its production in the Soviet Union. A concert performance of the opera in Russia only took place in 2006. A decade later in Ekaterinburg The Passenger appeared on the Russian theatre stage for the first time in its history.
The opera takes pace on the deck of a transatlantic liner sometime in the 1950s. A German woman named Lisa and her husband Walter, a diplomat, are leaving for Brazil. On the deck of the ship she notices a passenger that looks like a former acquaintance, Martha: this meeting makes Lisa remember how she, serving as a warden in Auschwitz, sent Martha to face certain death. The Ural Opera staging is rather dispassionate in theatrical language: the directors delicately invite the viewer to have an important conversation – about humanism, historical memory and consequences of people’s actions.
The composer Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-1996) is known to the general public for his music for the cartoons Boniface's Vacation, Winnie-the-Pooh and the soundtrack to the film The Cranes Are Flying, but firstly, he is the composer of 7 operas, 22 symphonies and many instrumental compositions. In The Passenger he mixes styles and genres in a fantastic fashion – the great music of the 20th century, jazz, folklore. The opera reminds us of the music written for theatre and cinema by Shostakovich, whom Weinberg called his teacher, but, at the same time, it is very different. Despite the scope of the topic, Weinberg finds an intimate intonation for the narrative: he addresses the opera to the whole of humanity and appeals personally to each listener – rightly believing that the questions raised in The Passenger concern everyone.