„Aus einem Totenhaus“: Die ewige Hölle in Noten

Die Nazis machten kurzen Prozess. Von dieser OperNo one should know about a Siberian penal colony that resembled a concentration camp. Therefore, they banned all performances – this was the second harassment that the work experienced. The first: After the composer’s death in 1928, two of his students misinterpreted it as unfinished; they padded the score with late Romantic elements and painted the ending with an invented freedom chorus. However, Leoš Janáček wanted nothing more than to convert the eternal hell into notes in his Dostoevsky opera From the House of the Dead: grinding, booming, clanging sounds for people who are going to the dogs and burying all hopes.

Die RuhrtriennaleNow the magnificent late work of the Moravian composer is being shown in the Bochum Jahrhunderthalle, and conductor Dennis Russell Davies demonstrates with the excellent Bochum Symphony Orchestra how to implement it (thankfully in the original version): execute, not interpret. Chains rattle already in the overture. Later, strange dissonant sounds whistle around the audience’s ears. The second act is plowed through by a mocking brass band, the only friendly moment. The rest is dedicated to the pain experienced by the inmates.

Janáček ging es nicht um den Blick in ein Labor. Ihn interessierte nicht, ob Menschen in der Isolation zu Tieren werden. Er wollte zeigen, wie ein einziger Moment des Versagens jemanden deformieren kann; manche der angeblichen Täter waren ja unschuldig und Opfer politischer Willkür. Über seine Oper schrieb Janáček den Satz: „In jedem Geschöpf ein Funke Gottes.“

The director Dmitri Tcherniakov brings these men uncomfortably close to us. He sets the opera in a multi-story prison block made of metal bars. As viewers, we are sometimes shoulder to shoulder with the singing prisoners. Are we even allowed to leave? Siberia can be anywhere. This immediacy has something threatening about it. Already in the orchestral prelude, the prisoners‘ chorus rushes into the hall like a stampede, immense aggressions pulsating through the men. Theater blood simulates broken noses. Stuntmen writhing on the floor. From this electric atmosphere, several life confessions spark, in which Janáček, unlike Dostoevsky, expressively personalizes the suffering. The ensemble of singing actors achieves something extraordinary (in the original Czech language), especially Leigh Melrose as Šiškov, who shapes the third act into a breathtaking confession.

At the end, Tcherniakov gives the evening a mark of suffocation. According to the score, the political prisoner Gorjančikov is the only one allowed to leave the camp, while everyone else remains in darkness. However, the director drives him insane, as in a moment of complete darkness in the room, the guards have killed all his comrades. He is left powerless – and we are left with his lamenting screams, beyond the final chord. An experience. A challenge. After 100 minutes, one is relieved to be released.