Magazine article Opera Canada

From the House of the Dead

Magazine article Opera Canada

From the House of the Dead

Article excerpt

A bird of prey projected onto a giant screen greeted audiences for the Canadian Opera Company's February production of Janacek's From the House of the Dead. As the orchestra proceeded through the score's opening measures, the bird's eye began to enlarge, revealing within it a man's haggardd face. If anyone were in doubt about the character of Janacek's last opera, Dmitri Bertman, the Russian director of the company's controversial 1999 La Traviata, and his projection designer, Adam Larsen, shouted "caveat emptor" with this opening image.

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Most opera companies do not need the warning. Janacek's three-act adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's bleak novel, Memoirs from The House of the Dead, remains one of his least produced operas, Vancouver's being the only previous Canadian company to have brought it to the stage.

Like Britten's Billy Budd, it has suffered in popularity from its maleness. Save for the bit part of a prostitute, the production involves only one female voice, Aljeja, a young Tartar, written for a boy but touchingly sung here by mezzo Lauren Segal. …

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