Philip Glass wrote this interpretation of Kafka's "In The Penal Colony" in 2000 so, taking this many years to finally reach Australia, seems a leisurely world cruise. The stark horror and perverse turn-about of Kafka's short story encourages a stark performance on an operatic stage. With certain high notes.
Paul Goodwin-Groen, Anthony Hunt and Patrick George in In the Penal Colony. Picture: Louis Dillon Savage Source: The Australian
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Glass's acute vision of an ageless Kafka tale
- by DEBORAH JONES
In the Penal Colony
By Philip Glass. Sydney Chamber Opera. April 11.
"IT'S a lot of work," says the Officer of his particularly testing method of carrying out executions.
It's work in which he takes enormous pride; work he deems deeply important; work he is honoured to carry out on behalf of his commanding officer - his former commanding officer, that is.
The new man, it seems, isn't quite as committed to the old way of doing things, and it's presumably he who has asked the Visitor to observe the latest death and report back, in an informal kind of way.
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In the Penal Colony therefore operates in the slippery political space between what used to have official sanction but now perhaps does not. That will have drastic consequences for the Officer. More profoundly, In the Penal Colony poses the eternally challenging question of what an individual does when faced with something morally repugnant. Intervene? Prevaricate? Stay silent?