A Dog's Heart Alexander Raskatov (1953)
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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.
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...
Martyn BrabbinsMusical 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'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
- 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
- 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.
‘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
‘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.’