Since his first production for La Monnaie, Krzysztof Warlikowski has been invited to Brussels with the regularity of clockwork. In his stagings of Médée (2008), Macbeth (2008), Macbeth (2010) Lulu (2012), Don Giovanni (2014) and From the house of the dead the director has shown an aptitude for discovering untrodden paths. A documentary in search of his artistic credo underlying his art and his work at La Monnaie.
No right-minded person out alone on the street would wish to encounter the characters from From the house of the dead! And yet Janáček has the power to shine a light in the darkest corners of humanity with music that exudes intensity, vulnerability, power and humour. Conductor Michael Boder explains why Janáček’s last opera is so unusual.
The chorus leader of our social programme ‘A bridge between two worlds’ has devoted ten long years to sparking and escalating an enthusiasm for singing in inmates in several Belgian prisons. A conversation with a musical fire accelerant.
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.
Reinder Pols, dramaturge at La Monnaie, gets into the details of From the house of the dead, Leoš Janáček's last opera, a work that hovers between operatic tradition and early 20th-century innovation.