home home
home home
Home Dutch National Opera presents

A Dog's Heart Alexander Raskatov (1953)

Breathtaking satire

Duration 2:55

Breaks 1

By Alexander Raskatov

Language Russian

Surtitles English & Dutch

The world premiere of Alexander Raskatov’s A Dog’s Heart, based on a novella by Mikhail Bulgakov, was an overwhelming success in 2010. McBurney’s staging is breathtaking, witty and dynamic.

In short

Commissioned by DNO, A Dog’s Heart was one of the most talked-about productions of the 2010 Holland Festival. Bulgakov wrote his story as a satirical criticism of the Soviet system. When the dog Sharik gets a transplant of a human pituitary gland and testicles, the mutated animal develops into the unscrupulous criminal Sharikov. The only hope is to perform a second operation...

Watch here why this opera is a must see!
Watch the trailer for A Dog's Heart from 2010.
  • Martyn Brabbins

    Musical director

    British conductor Martyn Brabbins studied composition in London and then conducting with Ilya Musin in Leningrad, he won first prize at the 1988 Leeds Conductors’ Competition.

    Simon McBurney


    Simon McBurney's work ranges from location theatre to innovative Broadway productions, is often based on classical texts and is always firmly connected with music.

    Team, Cast and Chorus

    Musical director 
    Martyn Brabbins
    Cesare Mazzonis
    Stage director and choreographer 
    Simon McBurney
    Revival director 
    Josie Daxter
    Michael Levine
    Christina Cunningham
    Paul Anderson
    Finn Ross
    Blind Summit Theatre
    Mark Down
    Nick Barnes
    Director of Movement 
    Toby Sedgwick
    Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
    Chorus of Dutch National Opera
    Rehearsal director 
    Frank Hameleers
    Philip Philippovich 
    Sergei Leiferkus
    Ville Rusanen
    Peter Hoare
    Darya/Unpleasant voice of Sharik 
    Elena Vassilieva
    Nancy Allen Lundy
    Alexey Sulimov
    Vyasemskaya/ Pleasant voice of Sharik 
    Andrew Watts
    Sharikov’s fiancée 
    Sophie Desmars
    1st patient/Provocateur 
    Alasdair Elliott
    2nd patient 
    Annett Andriesen
    Sophie Desmars
    Andrew Watts
    Alexey Sulimov
    Piotr Micinski
    Piotr Micinski


    The director of A Dog’s Heart, Simon McBurney, is a fan of Russian music and was strongly inspired by Rastokov’s composition. And the satirical text did the rest. The puppeteers play a unique role in A Dog’s Heart, bringing an over-sized dog to life on stage while clearly visible themselves. Simon McBurney is one of the most important English theatre makers today. He also does a lot of acting, both on stage and in films. With his London company Complicite Theatre, he creates productions with a strong interaction between music, visual theatre and text. In his own words: ‘What you see in the theatre is as important as what you hear’. Following A Dog’s Heart, McBurney’s staging of Die Zauberflöte for DNO was also a great success (2012, 2015).

    As for the world premiere, Martyn Brabbins is once again the musical director of A Dog’s Heart. This time, he is conducting the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra.

    Many of the original singers of A Dog’s Heart are returning, including Sergei Leiferkus and Ville Rusanen as the scientists Philip Philippovich and Bormenthal. Peter Hoare (Knusperhexe in Hänsel und Gretel, 2015) is Sharikov. He has sung the role previously with ENO.

    In collaboration with Complicite, London


    Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Martyn Brabbins

    The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra|Netherlands Chamber Orchestra has been the regular orchestra partner of Dutch National Opera for over 30 years and is internationally regarded as one of the best opera orchestras. Each season, the two orchestras perform the majority of the opera productions in Dutch National Opera & Ballet. The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra|Netherlands Chamber Orchestra gives a varied programme of concerts in the Concertgebouw and performs at major concert halls and festivals in the Netherlands and abroad.

    Marc Albrecht is the principal conductor of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra|Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and of Dutch National Opera. Gordan Nikolić is the artistic director and concertmaster of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. In recent seasons, the orchestras for Dutch National Opera have had great success with audiences and international press alike, with productions including Die Zauberflöte, Gurre-Lieder, Lohengrin, Il viaggio a Reims, Der Rosenkavalier and Hänsel und Gretel. The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Marc Albrecht, received an Edison for their recording of the DNO production Der Schatzgräber, in December 2014. In the 2016-2017 season, the orchestras will be performing the DNO productions Le nozze di Figaro, Manon Lescaut, Parsifal, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Wozzeck, A Dog’s Heart and Rigoletto.

    The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra|Netherlands Chamber Orchestra also brings classical music to people who do not automatically visit concert halls. Musicians go into schools to let children experience how enjoyable it is to play an instrument and listen to classical music. The musicians share their love of and passion for music with young and old, for example in hospitals or at festivals. This makes classical music accessible to all.

      Wed 10 Feb Dogs Heart - NRC Handelsblad, 2010

      ‘The British director Simon McBurney manages to keep exaggeration and caricature in check. In an ingenious set of film clips in the Russian style of the 1920s, he gives us a convincing and humorous performance’. – NRC Handelsblad, 2010

      Tue 11 Apr A Dog's Heart - Financial Times 2009

      ‘Mikhail Bulgakov’s monstrous 1925 satire was banned in Stalinist Russia, and first published in 1987. It forms the basis of A Dog’s Heart, Russian composer Alexander Raskatov’s first opera, given its world premiere in Amsterdam on Monday. The Netherlands Opera has lavished care on this new work, winning the collaboration of Complicite, Blind Summit Theatre’s puppetry team, video designer Finn Ross and director Simon McBurney to make a total sensory extravaganza. Bulgakov’s futuristic vision of dubious traffic in human organs is disturbingly close to home nowadays. Yet McBurney and his team resist the temptation to update the action, instead serving us a hallucinatory cocktail of silent-movie melodrama. Soviet workers strike revolutionary poses, grotesque acts take place as shadow-plays or behind closed doors, flags are waved and red books brandished. Raskatov’s score is rooted firmly in Russian tradition. Often heavily literal, the music follows the action with vulgar glee. Sometimes it feels as if Raskatov has taken the policeman scene in Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and stretched it; at other times, Mussorgsky’s ghost dances with Schnittke and Prokofiev. Russian folk instruments pepper the orchestra, military brass blasts out when required, flatulent contrabassoon grunts punctuate flaccid descending trombone glissandi. The music is engrossing and darkly funny in equal measures. There is so much wit and polish in Burney’s staging and so much musical excellence in the performance that it is hard to single out specific elements for praise. Blind Summit’s puppetry is dazzling, Martyn Brabbins keeps his forces well together, Sergei Leiferkus is slimily compelling as the unscrupulous Professor Philippovich, Elena Vassilieva produces an extraordinary range of canine sounds as the dog Sharik’s unpleasant voice. Burney draws detailed, confident performances from a uniformly solid cast. Things do not work out well for Philippovich. Sjarikov, dog-turned-man, has an unfortunate penchant for chasing cats and causing chaos. When the professor and his assistant perform the reverse operation, the results are not as hoped. It is easy to create a monster, but ultimately impossible to eradicate the bestial in humanity. When narrative is a dirty word for so much contemporary opera, A Dog’s Heart feels like a guilty pleasure. It is all the more fun for that.’