Oliver von Dohnányi on the style of The Passenger:
Weinberg’s first opera “The Passenger” which became his favorite operatic work strikes with its symphonic scope and dramatic depth. It has a specific operatic style which continues in his subsequent stage works (for example, in the opera “The Portrait”). The whole music world of “The Passenger” is divided into two parts and the composer doesn’t know compromises in that.
The extreme of positive heroes, Marta and the prisoners speaking different musical languages, is a world of exquisite lyrical music where we hear folk lingering melodies and laments, and solo violin, and the mournful sound of the choir. The climactic piece of the opera dramaturgy is the famous “Chaconne” by Bach, which has become an absolute icon to the musical world, a symbol of strength and hope for eternal life, of contact with the divine world and salvation of the righteous.
At the other extreme is the world of evil, which doesn’t have “live” music and long lyrical melodies associated with soul and spirit.
This music is written using a rational method of dodecaphony. Snatches of conversation, clatter of drums, roar of low tones, scraps of an official march and a cheeky jazz distorted with rhythm breakages against this background.
It’s amazing how with the help of music the composer shows moments of fear, obsession, guilt and terrible memory awakening in Lisa, a former warden. Being a really brilliant representative of the ´60s Weinberg builds his music through a dialogue with the public and their cultural memory, using polystylistics and presenting genre, style and tone as symbols and signs constituting important semantic layers.