In the Penal Colony


Opera composed by Philip Glass

Libretto by Rudolph Wurlitzer, based on an original story by Franz Kafka

Directed by Joanne Akalaitis

Premiered in 2000 at A Contemporary Theater in Seattle, Washington

“In the Penal Colony" is a 90-minute pocket opera adapted from a Franz Kafka (Austrian writer, 1883-1924) short story into a libretto by Rudolph Wurlitzer (American librettist, screen playwright 1937-), with music by Philip Glass (American composer, 1937-), set on an African prison island in 1907.

"A world premiere produced in collaboration with A Contemporary Theatre in Seattle. A visitor comes to witness an execution by a machine of capital punishment which he deems as antiquated and inhumane. But the colony’s presiding officer cannot imagine justice without this machine, his ‘work of a lifetime.’ On the surface, Kafka wrote of capital punishment and justice, but as his tale unfolds we see a struggle between enlightenment and the conquest of the human spirit. Philip Glass’ haunting score for two opera singers and string quintet brings Kafka’s masterpiece to life. Mr. Glass, Ms. Akalaitis and a brilliant design team created a rare and innovative piece of music, theatre and movement."— Court Theatre: Classics Online, In the Penal Colony

Production length 90 min.

Complete libretto is available online on the Exterminating Angel Press website