Heart of a Dog

Music & Libretto by Rudolf Rojahn
Based on the novella by Mikhail Bulgakov
Stage direction by Sally Stunkel (2007)/Copeland Woodruff (2010)

Premiere: September 21, 2007
Location: The Zack Box at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee

“Enterprising and unmistakably alternative” THE BOSTON GLOBE

“A prime and rare example of opera properly compounded with theater… ‘Heart of a Dog’ is smart, quirky contemporary opera with a lot of talent, creativity, and professionalism behind it” BOSTON LOWBROW


Listen to the alluring banter of a belligerent carnival barker as he navigates you through a twisted carnival sideshow where the main attraction is a unique performance by a bizarre troupe of actors. Utilizing an arsenal of bunraku puppets the troupe tells a dark tale of a scientist’s overly successful experiment of implanting human glands into the body of a stray dog. But the grandeur of the scientific achievement is overshadowed by the misery of living with the half-dog/half-woman whose varied appetites and manipulations prove disastrous for all.

RudyRojahn-WebsiteI’d long been a fan of Bulgakov’s fiction so when I began thinking about writing a short opera in 2007 Heart of a Dog seemed like it could be a perfect fit. Everything from the surreal nature of the drama to the small cast of characters to the self-contained environment seemed custom tailored, not just to my compositional aesthetic, but also to the limited resources with which the production would be put on.

The piece came out in a creative rage of less than two months and when I listen to it now, three years later, I can hear the raw and crunchy sonoric exuberance of a younger version of myself. I wanted to tear down the performance space with massive walls of sound while four tragic puppets acted out their black comedy.