In his last great work, Janáček flatly ignored the basic rules of the theatre: From the House of the Dead is an opera without heroes. The piece is a montage of powerful dramatic scenes and narrations, in which each of the various protagonists in turn steps out of the anonymous male chorus to tell his tale. Sometimes that tale takes up a whole scene, sometimes the protagonist sings a single line. Separating the close on twenty (!) soloist roles poses a huge challenge for both the director and the spectator. It helps that in this labour camp, as in all dystopias, everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others. These five prisoners are most in the spotlight and they provide the spectator with a holdfast in the narrative.