Almost two decades before Joseph Heller wrote Catch-22, his brilliantly surreal novel about WWII, a man with, oddly enough, the same initials "Jaroslav Hasek"; wrote what would become one of the most celebrated works of Czech literature, The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Schweik During the First World War. The connection between the two works, both biting satires on the stupidity and futility of war, is not coincidental. Heller admitted that he probably would never have written his novel if he hadn't read Hasek's first. Set in Austria-Hungary during WWI, Schweik is a tragicomic look at characters who are trapped in a conflict they don't comprehend while fighting for a country to which they feel no real allegiance. Josef Schweik himself is a study in absurdity -- a dealer in stolen dogs by profession, who manages to get himself committed to an insane asylum while a soldier in the Austro-Hungarian Army; he returns to duty, and is eventually mistakenly taken prisoner by his own side. Hasek's tale inspired many adaptations, from films and TV series to puppetoons and radio theater, and this week, Long Beach Opera presents the West Coast premiere of composer Robert Kurka's witty, sardonic 1958 opera, The Good Solder Schweik, with acclaimed tenor Matthew DiBattista in the challenging title role. Andreas Mitsek conducts. Also at Barnum Hall, 601 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Sat., Jan. 30, 4 p.m.; $45-$95. '
Sat., Jan. 23, 8 p.m., 2010