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  • Leos Janacek: From the House of the Dead - Festival Aix-en-Provence 2007
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Leos Janacek: From the House of the Dead - Festival Aix-en-Provence 2007


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Product Details

  • Actors: Olaf Bär, Peter Straka, Heinz Zednik, John Mark Ainsley, Pierre Boulez
  • Directors: Patrice Chéreau, Stéphane Metge
  • Format: Multiple Formats, NTSC, Color
  • Language: Czech (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Deutsche Grammophon
  • DVD Release Date: April 22, 2008
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0012LH82Y
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,886 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Leos Janacek: From the House of the Dead - Festival Aix-en-Provence 2007" on IMDb

Special Features

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Janác ek s rarely performed final opera From the House of
the Dead is brought to the stage by acclaimed director
Patrice Chéreau and legendary conductor Pierre Boulez,
serving as the third collaboration between the celebrated
team behind the famous best-selling DVD Ring also on DG.
This production, commissioned by the Aix-en-Provence
Festival, has been widely hailed as one of the operatic
highlights of the new millennium.
Harrowing and unforgettable; one of the great Janác ek
interpretations of our time. The Guardian

Amazon.com

Few operas match Janácek’s From the House of the Dead for sustained intensity and raw emotional power, especially effective in this 2007 Aix-en-Provence Festival staging. The opera is an ensemble work requiring an evenly matched cast of singing actors and a first-class orchestra under the baton of a conductor who masters Janácek’s but tricky rhythmic patterns, gritty folk-based melodies, and brilliant orchestration. That’s what it gets in this staging by Patrice Chéreau and conductor Pierre Boulez, whose precision and attention to detail amplify the overwhelming power of the score. This is one of those rare operas where nothing much happens yet leaves you certain that it has revealed important aspects of life. Without conventional arias, it delivers the power of such "highlight" moments through dramatic monologues and a continuous stream of orchestral music that illuminates characters and situations. In this late work completed months before his death, Janácek does in a mere 100 minutes what others strive to do in much longer time spans. Sharing the honors is a superb cast that brings the opera to life. You may despise what these people have done to land themselves in the Siberian gulag of Dostoyevsky’s novel, but Janácek’s libretto, almost entirely taken and re-ordered directly from the book, makes you sympathize with their degraded state and shocked at the cruelty to which they are subjected. Janácek focuses on six of the prisoners and several relate their stories. These are uniformly well done, with the first act monologue of Luca, a tale of how he murdered a prison commander, a gripping experience. It’s balanced in the final Act’s story of Shiskov; a grim tale of how he murdered his wife when she revealed her love for the villainous Filka, who turns out to be none other than the prisoner known as Luca. Filka/Luca is powerfully sung and acted by Stefan Margita, Shiskov by Gerd Grochowski. Olaf Bär sings the nobleman, a political prisoner roughly stripped of his clothes and belongings and who’s freed in the last Act. He becomes a father figure to the pallid, retiring Alyeya, brilliantly realized by Eric Stoklossa, teaching him to read and write and ministering to him as he lies feverish in the prison hospital. Special mention must be made of John Mark Ainsley, in the role of Skuratov, who murdered a rich man who wanted to marry his sweetheart.

Chéreau’s stage direction masterfully focuses attention where it needs to be, and keeps the dramatic arc flowing in ways that allow the audience to follow the action – not easy on a stage filled with secondary characters, nearly all male and all in either shabby prison clothes or green guard’s uniforms. Thierry Thieu Niang staged the two brief plays within the opera, prisoners’ performances mirroring some of their tales, bursting with depravity. The sets by Richard Peduzzi are fitting too, movable walls that reach to the top of the stage and enclose the prisoners in a claustrophobic setting. Film director Stéphane Metge’s camera placements and cutting are virtually always on target, blending the personal stories in a larger context. Extras include a 48" film that includes revealing scenes of Boulez and Chéreau in rehearsal. This is a must-have for anyone interested in 20th century opera. --Dan Davis

From the House of the Dead is an all-regions disc in 16:9 ratio. Sound options include PCM Stereo and DTS 5.1 Surround. Sung in Czech, subtitles include English, German, French, and Spanish.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 15 customer reviews
It is a stand out performance from an ensemble filled with amazing work.
G P Padillo
This uniquely modern lyricism and his expert choice of material makes Janacek one of the most important opera composers of the early 20th century.
Michael Birman
One should mention John Mark Ainsley who does an especially great job as Skuratov.
T. C.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Michael Birman TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 23, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Janacek's final opera, composed in 1927-28 and given its posthumous premiere two years later, is based on the Dostoyevsky novel written in 1861-62 in which the author renders his own prison experiences. The story as seen in the opera is not presented in a linear fashion, rather it is like a Robert Altman film such as Nashville or Short Cuts where an ensemble cast presents several intertwined stories of a disparate nature and with varied emotional impact. Janacek chose six characters and their compelling stories to focus on, reducing the novel's sprawling, amorphous structure into a more manageable form. The selection by Janacek is masterful: we are drawn into this bleak world with its ever-present despair and random violence because we identify with the plight of the inmates. It is a world later visited by Kafka, cold gray prison walls functioning as real and metaphorical agent of enslavement. It is the perfect paradigm of the twentieth century.

Janacek's music is astringent, slightly dissonant but tonal and often strangely lyrical. The amazing musical renaissance of his final years, one in which he discovered his true musical voice during his sixth decade, is reminiscent of Rameau. This uniquely modern lyricism and his expert choice of material makes Janacek one of the most important opera composers of the early 20th century. If you are unfamiliar with his work, this DVD is a fine place to begin. It is a superb performance in every way. Boulez conducts the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Arnold Schoenberg Chor with his typical steely precision. His emphasis on sonority is perfect for this opera. Voices and instruments are sharply defined, crystalline in sound but without brittleness.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By C. Boerger on April 23, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Prior to watching this, I had never seen or heard this opera before, but I like Janacek, love Dostoevsky, so I thought I would give it a try. Good call. From the House of the Dead is a bleak but essential opera, and Stephan Metge's film of Patrice Chereau's dank, foggy, severe staging makes for a powerful viewing experience. Almost from the first note I fell in love with Janacek's score. The composer has created a brilliant melange of lyricism and dissonance where the orchestration is more important than the vocalism. The singing in this opera is non-melodic, at times sparse, austere, almost conversational. What melodies there are are all contained within the instrumental portion of the score, it's Janacek's schizophrenic orchestration that sets the mood, creates tension and individualizes the characters. And the tension rarely comes to a stop, even when very little is happening onstage.

Based on Dostoevsky's experiences in a Siberian prison camp, Janacek's opera has no real story, although it begins with the imprisonment of a nobleman and ends with his freedom. Not much happens over the course of three acts, yet we learn about the lives of some of the prisoners, the crimes they committed that brought them there, almost uniformly crimes of passion(Janacek, wisely, doesn't ask us to sympathize with the crimes, he only wants us to respect the incarcerated as flawed beings). There is a strange lack of regret among the men, almost as if the years of being jailed have beaten much of their feeling out of them, other than their loneliness, plus traces of anger and sadness for what's been lost. By the time we meet them the men are threadbare, submissive, seemingly robbed of their passions, a far cry from the hotheads sent to prison for giving in to their violent desires.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By T. C. on April 21, 2008
Format: DVD
This is the best opera DVD I watched lately.

From the House of the Dead is a great 20th century opera, realizing miraculously the essence of Dostoevsky novel Notes from the Dead House. There is no narrative to the opera as a whole, but individual characters narrate episodes in their lives, which are focused on the reasons for their imprisonment.

The very unique team of conductor Pierre Boulez and stage director Patrice Chereau has done it again after their legendary collaboration in the late seventies Bayreuth Ring. This is a powerful and very moving production of the opera. The Mahler Chamber Orchestra plays outstandingly for Boulez, who said lately that this is the last opera production he will participate. From the House of the Dead is definitely a great choice. Every one in the large cast of male singers is excellent both in singing and acting. Boulez and Chereau decision to give the role of the young prisoner Aleyeya to a tenor (The young German tenor Erik Stokloßa) proves to be a brilliant idea. One should mention John Mark Ainsley who does an especially great job as Skuratov.

Urgently recommended!!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By G P Padillo VINE VOICE on April 28, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
What an emotionally harrowing experience is watching this opera for the first time.

Stephane Metge has made a film using the production by Patrice Chereau and Pierre Boulez (together again 30 some years after their famous Bayreuth Ring) and what a film it is.

Boulez, almost literally seems to conjure this stunning performance from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. From its haunting, jangly opening I was brought to mind of Strauss and Prokofiev and how all three use the orchestral colors in the boldest possible - and not always most subtle ways. The score is a wonder of violence, tenderness, dreamlike and gritty realism. It is magnificent.

Metge's camera work gets right into the middle of things, roaming through Richard Peduzzi's stark mile high walls with a voyueristic violence that thrusts the viewer into the world of this terrible place. Pulling episodes from Dostoevsky's tale, Janacek's opera is virtually plotless, yet this which is not to say "nothing happens" because there is plenty to focus on, as these hapless gulag prisoners live, suffer, dance, dream and reminisce of their lives outside these walls. Note I didn't say dream "of happier times" for the stories they tell of their pre-prison lives are as terrifying and violent as the world they create for themselves within the walls.

As Alexandr, Olaf Bar's entrance is terrifying stuff, clearly a man of some means, besuited and bespectacled, the guards and inmates encircle and strip him, hurling his glasses into the courtyard.
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