From The House of the Dead
Janáček worked on this opera knowing that it would be his last, and for it he broke away from the habit he had developed of creating characters modeled on his love interest Kamila Stösslová, although the themes of loneliness and isolation can clearly be seen as a response to her indifference to his feelings. There is only one female character, and the setting, a Siberian prison, presents a large ensemble cast instead of one or several prominent leads. There is no narrative to the work as a whole, but individual characters narrate episodes in their lives, and there is a "play-within-a-play" in Act 2.
From the House of the Dead was virtually finished when Janáček died. Two of his students, believing the orchestration was incomplete, "filled out" large portions of the score and adapted the ending to be more optimistic in tone. In addition to the work of Bretislav Bakala, Ota Zitek made changes to the text and sequence of events in the opera. Decades later, a version closer to the composer's intentions superseded that version, and it is the one most often heard today. Some productions, however, still use the earlier version's ending to lessen the bleakness of the story.
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