Set in a claustrophobic Siberian prison, David Pountney’s production of From the House of the Dead is a compelling collage of the in-mates’ stories as they recount why they ended up in jail. During a time of political oppression, each individual tale explores the extremes a person will go to, to right a wrong. A glimmer of hope takes the form of a great eagle that the prisoners painstakingly nurse back to health, a symbol of Russia but also of freedom itself.
Janáček based both the music and the libretto on the semi-autobiographical recollections of Russian writer Dostoyevsky, who himself only survived the firing squad as a result of a last minute reprieve from the Tsar. On stage we’re following the story of a number of characters through an ensemble cast and chorus, but the true protagonist is the WNO Orchestra, conducted by WNO’s new Music Director Tomáš Hanus.