Welsh National Opera

conductor Tomáš Hanus

director David Pountney


Great Britain is the place where, several decades ago, the wave of world-wide interest in the work of Leoš Janáček began, and director David Pountney undoubtedly ranks among those that have won acclaim for their interpretations of his works. He produced Her Stepdaughter for this festival in 2004 with a Brno ensemble, and this time he is bringing us his now classic production of Janáček´s last opera From the House of the Dead, performed by the Welsh National Opera, where he works as the art manager. Behind the conductor´s stand of the excellent Welsh National Opera orchestra will be its music manager, Tomáš Hanus. The performance will be an extraordinary addition to the festival mainly thanks to the musical aspect, as a new critical edition by Prof. John Tyrrell will be presented. It reconstructs the work to be as close as possible to the form which Janáček probably intended, though he never had the opportunity to finish it.

“In every creature there is a spark of God”, Leoš Janáček wrote in the header to the score of his ninth and last opera From the House of the Dead in June 1928. It wasn´t the first occasion that he’d been inspired by Russian literature when composing his work; this time it was Dostoyevsky´s novel The House of the Dead, which describes the hardness of life in a Siberian prison. Janáček´s intention to set such a topic to music was surprising, just like his earlier decision to stage Čapek´s The Makropulos Affair. The extensive novel, with its detailed explorations of moods, descriptions of the environment, psychological analyses, philosophical thoughts, monological narratives and a minimum of dialogue, without a central hero and without female characters, didn´t seem to be a suitable basis for an opera. The size of the novel forced Janáček to make numerous adaptations and reduce the number of characters. Unfortunately, Janáček died on 12th August 1928 without completing the opera, and the produced libretto was never found, only a brief outline. When the Brno theatre decided to perform the opera in the autumn of 1929, Janáček´s pupils, conductors Břetislav Bakala and Osvald Chlubna, made the necessary adaptations. These involved completing the instrumentation, making small changes to the singing parts and altering the end of the work to create a less pessimistic version.

Patricie Částková