Janácek : From the House of the Dead

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To be alive and yet to be already dead : that is the paradox at the heart of Leoš Janáček‘s last opera : an absolute masterpiece, to discover in Frank Castorf‘s powerful staging for the Bayerische Staatsoper, conducted by Simone Young. With Peter Rose, Charles Workman, Bo Skovhus

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Janáček : From the House of the Dead

Death is never far away in Leoš Janáček’s work : in The Cunning Little Vixen, the main character falls under the fire of a hunter, Katia Kabanova kills herself, Emilia Marty in The Makropulos Case has to deal with the hard consequences of eternal youth. From the House of the Dead makes no exception, especially since the composer knew he was living out his final days when he decided to adapt into an opera Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s eponymous novel, a literary work inspired by the time the novelist spent in a Siberian prison. This painful feeling of ineluctability pervades through his disillusioned and savage score, that recounts the hopeless life of the convicts of a Soviet concentration camp. In this place where life has already drawn out, in this no man’s land forsaken by civilization, Janáček portrays the anonymous and daily sufferings, the abuses, the corporal punishments, but also evokes fragments from the prisoners’ past, bringing them back to life for the duration of a game or of a story.

Against this background that contrasts the empathic solidarity of simple men with the horrific brutality of the prison guards, stage director Frank Castorf – who created a memorable Ring Cycle in Bayreuth for the Wagner Bicentennial in 2013 – embraces the aesthetics of grotesque and absurd suggested by Janáček’s score, and chooses to crudely display, with stark realism, the physical and psychological violence at the heart of the opera. In the pit, conducting the Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Simone Young underlines the power plays and the overwhelming lyricism unleashed by Janáček’s music. As the main protagonists, Peter Rose, Charles Workman and Bo Skhovus, all familiar with Janáček’s subtleties, bring back to life these agonizing anti-heroic characters forsaken by God and men.


Janáček : From the House of the Dead [DVD & Blu-ray]

Opera in three acts 
Music and libretto Leoš Janáček (1854-1928)
After the novel From The House Of The Dead by Fyodor Dostoievsky

Alexandr Petrovič Gorjančikov Peter Rose
Aljeja Evgeniya Sotnikova
Luka Kuzmič (Filka Morozov) Aleš Briscein
Skuratov Charles Workman
Šiškov Bo Skovhus
Prison governor Christian Rieger
Nikita, Big Prisoner Manuel Günther
Small Prisoner Tim Kuypers
Old Prisoner Ulrich Reß
Cook Boris Prýgl
Pope Peter Lobert
Čekunov Johannes Kammler
Šapkin Kevin Conners
Blacksmith (A Prisoner) Alexander Milev
Kedril, Prisoner Matthew Grills
A prostitute Niamh O’Sullivan
Don Juan, Brahmane Callum Thorpe
Čerevin Dean Power
Drunk prisoner Galeano Salas
Guard Long Long

Bayerisches Staatsorchester | Chorus of the Bayerische Staatsoper
Conducted by Simone Young

Stage director Frank Castorf
Sets Aleksandar Denić
Costumes Adriana Braga Peretzki
Lighting design Rainer Casper
Video Andreas Deinert, Jens Crull, Stefanie Nirschl
Dramaturgy Miron Hakenbeck
Chorus master Sören Eckhoff

Image gallery
Press review

“Evgeniya Sotnikova is outstanding as Aljeja in her various guises, while standouts in the otherwise all-male cast include Peter Rose, Ales Briscein and Charles Workman. I believe this production will improve each time I watch it” – several-instruments.blogspot.com

“Musically it’s superb. Simone Young leads the Bayerisches Staatsorchester in a tight, punchy reading of this gloriously colourful, if utterly brutal score. Among the excellent cast, Peter Rose’s combination of outrage, shock and despair in the central role of the political prisoner Gorjančikov is deeply moving. Aleš Briscein as the violent Luka, Charles Workman as the bewildered Skuratov, Bo Skovhus as the conflicted Šiškov, and Christian Rieger as the sadistic Prison governor are all first rate. If Castorf’s multi-focused interpretation lacks the taut clarity of Patrice Chereau’s landmark production, it’s a timely reminder of Janáček’s dramatic and musical genius in this, his intricate yet visceral swansong.” – Limelight

Technical informations

HD recording : Bayerische Staatsoper | 05/2018
TV direction : Andy Sommer
Release date
: 14 February 2020
Distribution : Naxos Distribution

: BAC173
Barcode : 3760115301733
Running time : 97 min.
Booklet : FR / ENG / GER
Sous-titres : FR / ENG / GER / SPA / JAP / KOR
Image : Color, 16/9, NTSC
Sound : PCM 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1
Region code : 0

Reference : BAC573
Barcode : 3760115305731
Running time : 97 min.
Booklet : FR / ENG / GER
Subtitles : FR / ENG / GER / SPA / JAP / KOR
Image : Color, 16/9, Full HD
Sound : PCM 2.0, DTS HD Master audio 5.1
Region code : A, B, C

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