I had seen several Warlikowski productions across Europe and it was a bit of a surprise that this From the House of the Dead was his house debut at the Royal Opera House. Too modern for UK conservative taste in opera? Anyway this was a safe bet as the production is not radical in any way. It was, however, intense and very demanding. As Leoš Janáček music is not easy listening, Krzysztof Warlikowski staging is not easy to see, as many things are happening on the stage and require a lot of focus to get all the details.
This was a very smart move from the Barbican. As one of the last 20th century mainstream operas it had been premiered though all America and Europe but the UK premiere was still waiting. So the Barbican took the Teatro Real production that has been staging this month in Madrid: singers, conductor, director, stage design, costumes… everything but the orchestra, choir and sets and brought it to London. That meant minimal rehearsal times and minimal cost resulting in an almost fully-stage opera at very low price.