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“The Passenger” field trip to Chicago Lyric Opera

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My two oldest sons and I, along with a group from our Tapestry of Grace Fellowship Group (a homeschool co-op where we study history and literature together) went to the Chicago Lyric Opera’s production of The Passenger opera last week.

The Passenger is a moving 20th Century opera about the horrors of Auschwitz and the lingering effects on both a prisoner and guard who had been in it.  You never know what to expect from music written in the 20th Century–it’s all over the spectrum.  (I definitely know because I’ve been teaching a 20th Century music history/appreciation course this year.)  So, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be too “weird” to be enjoyable.  It wasn’t.  It was beautiful.

It certainly helped that it was performed by the world class Chicago Lyric Opera.  The singers and orchestra were fabulous.  But the set and lighting was also amazing.


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Here is a photo (of a photo that was hanging in the lobby) of one of the final scenes of the opera.  You can see both the modern day (early 1960s) ship on top.  I loved how it was all in white–the set and the costumes.  Below was the Auschwitz prison from the 1940s.  The story is that a former SS prison guard, a woman, is on board a ship taking her and her husband to their new post in Brazil where he is a German diplomat.  She sees a woman on board the ship that she thinks was a former inmate of Auschwitz.  She has never told her husband about her past.  So, as she tells him the story, it is played out below.

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The stage had train tracks which were used to move the set pieces around.  Some of the lights were part of the prison–as search lights.  It was fascinating how the set was manipulated.  They had a scale model of it in the lobby, so here are a few pictures:

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The most moving part of the story was getting to know the prisoners and their stories.  They were from all over–Poland, France, Russia, Czechoslovakia and not all were Jews.  There was a man and a woman who were engaged, and he had an amazing musical talent for playing the violin.  The heart-breaking line was, “Will anyone remember us in the future? Will they know what we went through while we were here?”  That certainly was the reason the opera was written, to remember them.

Sadly, it wasn’t to show forgiveness for the guards, repentance of the guards, or any reconciliation.  And, also sadly, the one character who had such strong faith in God seemed to lose it at the end.

But I do recommend seeing this performance if it’s ever performed in your area.  We must remember what happened, and never let it happen again.


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Here is a beautiful tapestry that hangs in front of the stage.

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In front of the Chicago River.

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