From The House Of The Dale

Would you think it wrong of me to call the set design for an opera that takes place in a prison arresting?

Would you think it strange that a disclaimer in the program insists No animals were harmed in the making of this production?

Would you believe that a 90 minute one act production can seem longer than a 5 hour opera?

While we're on the topic of would wood, can you imagine how having two naked men, one with substantial equipment, front and centre during a prolonged communal bath scene, might ahem pull focus from the rest of the scene?

From The House of the Dead is an opera by Leoš Janáček based on Dostoevsky's novel Memoirs from the House of the Dead. It tells the stories of several prisoners being held in a Siberian jail. It was difficult to follow. The director's explanation:

There is no plot which can be easily described in a program synopsis...rather, the events resemble video clips - collections of impressions based on the memoirs of prisoners.

My impression was that Janáček would have enjoyed the 10 minute scene of everyone humping someone or something about as much as I'd like to sit with my mother and watch HBO's OZ.

The set, lighting, and projection design was truly incredible but the music (excepting the overture) and singing did not keep me engaged. I've heard opera in Czech before and was happy to find that my expectation of the notes being comprised solely of snorts and phlegm was misguided.

I stopped reading along with the surtitles about 1/3 of the way through and focused on the intricate and perfectly executed projection work. The release of a live falcon representing freedom got the wranglers more prolonged applause at the curtain call than the cast did.

My attempt to not make your sentence any harsher and end on a positive note finds me saying:

This opera was at least as enjoyable as any movie that might rely on a Larry King endorsement in its ad campaign.



Tanya Espanya said...


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Did you snort and phlegm along with the performers?

And be grateful that the opera wasn't staged environmentally when it came to the bath scene, as it would be even more distracting if this was being performed right in front of your face, as happened to me at a performance of Trainspotting where the naked guy lay down right at my feet and injected heroin into his penis. Too close!

FranIAm said...

Totally off topic but I realized when I read your comment that I have rudely NOT blogrolled you- I was sure that I had.

Well that is now rectified and I updated that Technorati post so you get links and the love that goes with it Dale!!

Chancelucky said...

Yikes...Dostoyevsky wrote bathhouse scenes? I actually really like Janaceck, but I've never heard any of his operas.

that's the fun of going to the Opera though...Sometimes the mix works and sometimes it's more like "What the *^&^&^ were they thinking?"

more or less like blind dates....I guess...Was Janaceck the blind one or was that Smetana?

X. Dell said...

I'm not familiar with this opera, but I have seen narratives like this in short plays. If you don't have translation issues, that either take your attention away from the stage, or leave you clueless as to what the actors are saying, I can see where that could be a really fun story to watch. Thought about writing a play like that myself.

Otherwise, I sense you're less than thrilled with this effort. Perhaps next time, they can transpose the score and set it in a women's prison. You think that might get more applause than the falcon?

Jake's Mom said...

Isn't about time for a money back guarantee on opera? But you can't get the 90 minutes back.

Dale said...

Your brilliance dazzles me Ms. Espanya.

I kept my urges in control Barbara. Your Trainspotting experience sounds harrowing. And heroiny.

Fran, for someone so rude, you're also strangely sweet. All my Technorati love to you too.

Smetana was who I was thinking of Chancelucky as I'd seen The Bartered Bride previously and enjoyed it. Poor fellow had tinnitus, went deaf, was declared insane and had all kinds of other wonderful things happen to him. Now, because of Janacek, all that'll happen to me!

The watching was quite excellent, the rest of it suffered and caused me some suffering X. Dell as you've read. If there's a cat fight or two, I'm there!

Even when I think it's bad, I still somehow enjoy going Jake's Mom. Imagine if I had nothing to complain about? I'd still like the cash back though. Were you offering?

Distributorcap said...

Leave it to those Czechs to do prison operas...... i look forward to the NY production so i can go and cure my insomnia.

i hope there was no soap dropping scene

SkylersDad said...

I thought all the well-endowed guys were over at Puppetry of the Penis?

Dale said...

The noise might keep you awake D. Cap, approach with caution. No soap was dropped during the making of the production either thankfully.

Maybe this guy was out on loan Skyler's Dad.

BeckEye said...

If that comes to Broadway, I'm hoping that naked man #1 is played by Ewan McGregor.

chelene said...

There were penises and a live falcon on the same stage?? I wonder if the men get hazard pay.

Mistress La Spliffe said...

It sounds like the COC is bribing the general public to go to the opera by showing fun bits. Fine. I like opera, and fun bits. But would the last 50 years of opera have been any better if Joan Sutherland had popped out of her dress or if we'd seen Pavarotti's pavoritti peeking out from under his gut onstage?

Jesus, that was the wrong image to start the day with. Glad I could pass it on.

Captain Ergo Jinglebollocks said...

this is promising. It means that totally wackjob theatre might be coming back after 20 years of turning works like "Wicked" and "Jude the Obscure" into musicals.

Dale said...

I dunno Beckeye, this guy could give Ewan some ahem pointers.

Excellent point Chelene. One sideways glance from that falcon and the thought a worm! and things might have gone quite differently.

Thank you for infecting me Mistress. Now we know what that the name of the company ain't COC for nothin'!

Jude the Obscure? Really?

Old Lady said...

Dostoevsky. He is a hard and ponderous read. But he had a lot of shit in his head. I haven't read that particular book. But, of all authors to set to music, I dunno and Dostoevsky was so DARK. You are a brave one Dale.

Old Lady said...

I have a confession. I didn't like Phantom of the Opera opera. I liked Cats and Jesus Christ Superstar, Porgy and Bess for modern operas. Love the classics such as La Traviata, Madame Butterfly, La Boheme, ad finitum.(Can't spell half of them)

Dale said...

I'm brave so others don't have to be Old Lady. My classics are in line with yours although I like checking out a lot of other things too because you never know what you might have a chance to love unless you try something different once in a while. It's alright to admit not enjoying Andrew Floyd Kramer, he's not all that.