The last opera by Czech composer Leoš Janáček is based on the semi-autobiographical novel The House of the Dead (1862) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. In it, the Russian author describes the inhumane conditions in a Siberian prison camp, on the basis of his own experiences and the testimonies of his fellow prisoners. Janáček’s music in no way softens the brutality of this hopeless existence, but that makes the unexpected moments of hope and solidarity in this opera all the more moving. Krzysztof Warlikowski, leading light of the European theater, directs this shockingly modernist work while the fierce and frenetic score is in good hands with conductor Michael Boder.
In a Siberian prison camp, a community of male prisoners is engaged in forced labour in appalling circumstances. From time to time, a few individuals stand out from the group, which is kept in line by pitiless guards: the aristocrat Alexandr Petrovič Gorjančikov, for example, humiliated and tortured on his arrival as a political prisoner, who forms a friendship with the young Tatar Aljeja. Luka Kuzmič recounts how he murdered an officer in a previous camp, for which he was brutally punished; one frail prisoner, Skuratov, had killed the old man to whom his beloved Luisa was married off; Šiškov, too, had been convicted of a crime of passion: he discovered that his Akulka still loved the man who had damaged her reputation with false accusations. When, at the end, Gorjančikov is unexpectedly released, the prisoners also release their caged eagle. A new life?
‘From the House of the Dead’ wins La Monnaie International Opera Award for Best New Production
On Monday 29 April 2019, the Sadler's Wells Theatre in London set the stage for the 2019 International Opera Awards Ceremony. La Monnaie took home the award for Best New Production with Janáček’s From theHouse of the Dead.