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22 September 2011
Giselle Allen, a former student at the School of Music, has taken to the stage at the London Coliseum this week as one of the lead performers in the UK premiere of The Passenger, an opera with an extraordinary history.
Written in 1968, Miecyslaw Weinberg’s The Passenger derives from a semi-autobiographical novel by the Polish writer Zofia Posmysz who survived the concentration camps. Weinberg was himself a Polish Jew, forced to flee to Russia whilst the rest of his family were taken into camps.
In the English National Opera’s production, soprano Giselle plays the role of Marta, an Auschwitz survivor whose experiences are the focus of the opera. The story moves between Auschwitz and a transatlantic liner in the 1960s where Marta encounters a former SS guard, now married to a German diplomat.
Discussing the role, Giselle said: "I had no reservations about playing Marta. I tend to be cast in deeply dramatic roles as I consider myself both an actress and a singer and I love the challenge vocally and psychologically."
Giselle’s commitment to the role is reflected in the rave reviews her performance has been earning from critics. The Financial Times’ review describes how her performance "wrenches the heart" and the London Evening Standard review says that "Giselle Allen’s remarkable performance as Marta captures the harrowing mental and physical degradation to which she was subjected."
Belfast-born Giselle graduated from the School of Music in 1992 and has gone on to a successful career as both a concert artist and a recitalist. She has worked with conductors such as Sir Simon Rattle, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Sir David Willcocks and Marin Alsop, and has recorded with the Ulster Orchestra under Vernon Handley. In demand also as a recitalist, she has appeared for BBC Belfast, the Castleward Opera Series, and at the National Concert Hall in Dublin.
The Passenger is playing at the London Coliseum until 25 October 2011. For more information on the production, or to watch a preview trailer, visit the English National Opera’s webpages.
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