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Leoš Janáček: From the House of the Dead

  • new critical edition (2017) edited by John Tyrrell, with performance suggestions by Sir Charles Mackerras
  • 4 3 3 3 - 4 3 3 1 - timp, perc(4), hp, cel, t.tuba, str
  • Instrumentation details:
    1st flute (+picc)
    2nd flute (+picc)
    3rd flute (+picc)
    4th flute (+picc)
    1st oboe
    2nd oboe
    3rd oboe (+cor anglais)
    1st clarinet in Bb
    2nd clarinet in Bb (+cl(Eb))
    3rd clarinet in Bb (+cl(Eb), bass cl(Bb))
    1st bassoon
    2nd bassoon
    3rd bassoon (+cbsn)
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    3rd horn in F
    4th horn in F
    1st trumpet in F
    2nd trumpet in F
    3rd trumpet in F
    tenor tuba in Bb (+bass trumpet)
    1st trombone
    2nd trombone
    3rd trombone
    percussion(4): xylophone, glockenspiel, bells in the distance, bells in the fortress, triangle, cymbals, tam-tam, snare drum, military drum, bass drum, blows with an axe, jangling of chains, blows on an anvil, metallic ring of tools, ratchet, sawing, jingle bell, working noises (f.e. blows with a hammer)
    violin I
    violin II
    double bass
  • Choir: Männerchor: Sträflinge, Teufel [in der Pantomime], kranke Sträflinge ... Tenöre / Bässe Zimmerleute, Beamte, Gäste ... stumm
  • Roles: Aljeja, a young tatar ... mezzo-soprano Luka ... tenor Tall Prisoner ... tenor Short Prisoner ... baritone Prison Governer ... bass Alexander Petrowic Gorjantschikow ... baritone Guard [1] ... tenor Prisoner with the eagle ... tenor Prisoner [1] ... bass The Old One ... tenor Skuratov ... tenor Voice from the Kyrghiz Steppe (offstage) ... tenor Prisoner (a) ... bass Priest ... bass Cook (Prisoner) ... bass Prisoner (b) ... bass Drunken Prisoner ... tenor Prisoner [2] ... tenor Prisoner [3] ... tenor in the plays: Kedril ... tenor Don Juan (Brahmane) / Devil ... bass Elvira ... silent Knight ... silent Cobbler's Wife ... silent Priest's Wife ... silent Small Devil ... silent Actor (Prisoner) ... silent Miller's Wife (played by Sirotin) ... silent Miller (played byNeswjestjew) ... silent Neighbour, a miller ... silent Clerk ... silent Young Prisoner ... tenor Whore ... Alt Merry Prisoner ... tenor Obstreperous Prisoner ... baritone Cekunov ... tenor Šapkin ... tenor Šiškov ... baritone Cerevin ... tenor Doctor ... silent Prisoner (Blacksmith) ... bass Guard [2] ... bass
  • Composer: Leoš Janáček
  • Writer of pre-existing text: Fjodor Michailowitsch Dostojewski
  • Interpretatory hints: Sir Charles Mackerras
  • Editor: John Tyrrell
  • Original language: Czech
  • Translator: Max BrodDavid Pountney
  • Table of contents:
    Úvod / Introduktion / Introduction
    Jednání I / Akt I / Act I
    Jednání II / Akt II / Act II
    Jednání III / Akt III / Act III

Work introduction

Janá?ek did not live to see his final opera Z mrtvého domu [From the House of the Dead] performed. The work was so different from his previous operas in its often chamber-like orchestration and its lack of an apotheosis ending that his pupils took it upon themselves to ‘revise’ it for its première in Brno in 1930, reorchestrating it and, most notoriously, rewriting the ending. Ever since the shortcomings of the original published edition became apparent there have been attempts to return to what Janá?ek left at his death. The new critical edition by John Tyrrell supplants the Mackerras-Tyrrell ‘provisional edition’ (1990) with a thorough-going revision based on the score made by Janá?ek’s copyists under his direct supervision and corrected by him. In his previous operas Janá?ek had the opportunity of making minor corrections to the score during rehearsals. Because of his death extensive tidying up of many inconsistencies has been necessary here. All such editorial interventions are shown as such and are described in the Critical Report.

Janá?ek wrote his own libretto translating from the original Russian into Czech as he went along and left in many untranslated words and phrases. Previous editions replaced these with a revised text in standard Czech. With the possibility today of surtitles (which can provide the sense of what is sung on stage) the new edition prints Janá?ek’s original text, whose departures from standard Czech constitute an important part of the sound image of the opera. All non-standard words or phrases (whether Russian, Ukrainian, Moravian dialect, etc.) are explained in the Critical Report, usually with reference to Dostoevsky’s original Russian, in an extensive appendix printed at the back of the score.

World première

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff (GB)
WNO Orchestra
Tomáš Hanus
Main soloists:
Goryanchikov, Ben McAteer; Filka Morozov, Mark Le Brocq; Big Convict, Paul Charles Clarke; Small Convict, Quentin Hayes; Commandant, Robert Hayward; Skuratov, Alan Oke; Shapkin, Adrian Thompson; Shishkov, Simon Bailey; Don Juan, Julian Close; etc.

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