The Passenger Sends Off Sparks With a Story You'll Never Forget

Houston Grand Opera takes us on an amazing trip in presenting this opera left forgotten in Soviet archives.

On a ship to Brazil accompanied by her German diplomat husband, Walter (tenor Joseph Kaiser), Liese (mezzo Michelle Breedt, who sang the role at the Bregenz world premiere) is haunted by the appearance of a mysterious woman who looks exactly like Marta (soprano Melody Moore), an ­Auschwitz prisoner who was murdered under Liese's watch as an SS overseer years earlier. Anguished, Liese confesses her past to her husband and they both try to make the best of it, hoping that Marta is not who Liese imagines. We never discover if the mystery woman is Marta or only a figment of Liese's overheated guilt, but in a terrifying coup de théâtre, the horrors of the most infamous of concentration camps roll into view beneath the pristine whiteness of the ship above. Searchlights scan the blighted landscape. A male chorus sits above the railroad cars like a modern Greek chorus, commenting on the action in breathless, hushed tones. Death, brutality, inhumanity are everywhere. There is no escape. Who will ever know they were here? As Liese is drawn ever downward by her memories, the victims come into high relief.

Michelle Breedt plays Liese, who is trying to forget her past as a German SS overseer.
Catherine Ashmore
Michelle Breedt plays Liese, who is trying to forget her past as a German SS overseer.

Location Info


Wortham Theater Center

500 Texas Ave.
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Performing Arts Venues

Region: Downtown/ Midtown


The Passenger

January 25 and 31; February 2, matinee. Houston Grand Opera, Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas. Purchase tickets online at or call 713-228-6737. $15 to $354


The Passenger is HGO's watershed. Weinberg's forgotten opera is everything contemporary opera should be: exquisitely crafted; conducted with heavenly warmth and demonic power by maestro Patrick Summers; conjured into heartbreaking life by director Pountney and his team of scenic wizards; and deliciously sung by all (Moore, who appears this April as Freia, goddess of youth, in Wagner's Das Rheingold, is exceptionally radiant as obstinate, unconquerable Marta, as is the powerhouse chorus, male and female, under chorus master Richard Bado). Please don't be put off by the gloom and horror of the Auschwitz subject. The opera rejoices in hope and remembrance. Harsh and unforgiving, it's a shattering experience.

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great article