A Glass act brings Kafka’s story to life
by Karen Price
MUSIC Theatre Wales is bringing its acclaimed production of Philip Glass’ gripping chamber opera, In the Penal Colony, to Clwyd Theatr Cymru in Mold this weekend.
Based on the powerful short story by Franz Kafka, In the Penal Colony is a study of man’s inhumanity and intolerance of authority and cruelty, and of the very process of execution.
Glass remains one of the most popular and distinctive of all living composers, and In the Penal Colony is yet another example of his ability to create work that challenges theatrical and musical norms.
Music Theatre Wales has recently announced that Philip Glass will write a new chamber opera expressly for the company, based on another Kafka story, The Trial, due for production in 2013 – the company’s 25th anniversary year.
In the Penal Colony, which has already visited Aberystwyth and Newport, is directed by Michael McCarthy, founder and artistic director of Music Theatre Wales.
It features a five-strong string ensemble under MTW’s music director, Michael Rafferty.
The cast includes Omar Ebrahim as the Officer, Michael Bennett as the Visitor and actor Gerald Tyler as the Condemned Man. The opera is designed by Simon Banham with lighting by Ace McCarron.
The intimate setting of In the Penal Colony takes audiences up close to two key characters – the Officer who proudly regards his gruesome execution machine as a perfect means of punishment and transfiguration, and the horrified Visitor, who is required to witness events.
The opera lays bare the psychological impact of the machine on both victim and perpetrator, while Glass’ pulsating, compulsive music rakes up the tension to a haunting, unforgettable climax.ŠŠ
Music Theatre Wales’ relationship with the music of Glass goes back to 1989, when the company gave the European premiere of The Fall of the House of Usher, based on the Edgar Allen Poe short story, which MTW also revived in 1993 and 2000.
In The Penal Colony is at Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold on Sunday at 7.30pm. There will be a pre-performance talk at 6.30pm. The box office number is 0845 330 3565