Since 2007 it has shaken audiences in Berlin, Vienna, Aix-en-Provence, Amsterdam, and New York. Now three years later, Da una casa di morti comes to Milan's La Scala. Leoš Janáček's opera based on Dostoyevsky's writings about hope and transcendence in a Siberian Gulag will open tomorrow night in Patrice Chéreau's epic production (costumière Caroline De Vivaise; set designer & Chéreau-collaborator since their 1979 Bayreuth Ring, Richard Peduzzi; and choreographer Thierry Thiue Niang). Pierre Boulez was the man with the plan, conducting performances prior to NYC, but now Esa-Pekka Salonen is all over it. Since Scala has only seen it once on stage in over 40 years, this weekend it's been a media deluge with articles in Corriere della Sera, La Repubblica, Vivimilano, and La Stampa. Opera Chic covered it extensively when it premiered at the Metropolitan Opera this past fall, but will sooooo be there tomorrow night.
Chéreau said to Vivimilano: "It's an opera rich with energy and vitality that's reflected in Janáček's music. There aren't true protagonists, rather, many characters. The protagonist is the society that the detainees have formed, with their trauma there are also moments of beauty. The prisoners are relatively free. They eat, drink, sleep, think, love, hate, rebel, mess around, play, walk, and act..."
To Corriere: "Behind the work of Janáček is Alban Berg's Wozzeck. The Czech composer had heard it three years prior to writing From the House of the Dead and remained transfixed by the work." Of Peduzzi's scenery: "With the movable walls, I wanted to synthesize the feeling of a prison. Like a box, huge and encompassing, or small and oppressive. Walls and walls, not a single breath of air and no sky."
To La Stampa Chéreau said that after this production finishes at La Scala, he's done with opera. In his future it will be more cinema and theater, searching always for a new audience, a new challenge, and as always, a new experiment. Spoken like a real philosopher.