Music by Philip Glass
Libretto By Rudolph Wurlitzer based on Franz Kafka
“...It's always risky interfering in other peoples' business... I oppose this procedure, but I will not intervene." - The Visitor, In The Penal Colony
A collaboration with CALREP Long Beach
Philip Glass about the opera
"What fascinates me in this story is the moral inversion that takes place. The Officer, having started as all-powerful, becomes the victim, and he takes on the role with a kind of joy. He's done everything he can to convince the Visitor of the virtue of the Machine, and, when he fails, he realizes it's over and the only The Visitor makes the right judgment, but we can't admire him because he does this by refusing to be engaged at all. He suffers no inconvenience, whereas we end up warming to the Officer more because he sacrifices everything for his principles.
Kafka, I think, is suggesting that the mere fact of our human incarnation is enough to make us guilty. One of the attractive things about the story for me as a composer is its formality. The Visitor gets away, but, by avoiding judgment, actually fails. The Officer, in a strange way, redeems himself. It's a perfectly calibrated outcome, like a trap for a hummingbird.
As for the music, I've restricted myself to a string quartet because that is the medium that in the West has always been associated with introspection and intimacy. I've added just one double bass to lend an extra gravity and darkness."
Kafka (1883 – 1924) was a German-language writer of novels and short stories, regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. Kafka strongly influenced the genre of existentialism. Most of his works, such as Die Verwandlung ("The Metamorphosis"), Der Prozess ("The Trial"), and Das Schloss ("The Castle"), are filled with themes and archetypes of alienation, physical and psychological brutality, parent–child conflict, characters on a terrifying quest, labyrinths of bureaucracy, and mystical transformations. Kafka was born into a middle-class, German-speaking, Jewish family in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In his lifetime, most of the population of Prague spoke Czech, and the division between Czech- and German-speaking people was a tangible reality, as both groups were strengthening their national identities. The Jewish community often found itself in between the two sentiments, naturally raising questions about a place to which one belongs. Kafka himself was fluent in both languages, considering German his mother tongue. Kafka trained as a lawyer and, after completing his legal education, obtained employment with an insurance company. He began to write short stories in his spare time. For the rest of his life, he complained about the little time he had to devote to what he came to regard as his calling. He regretted having to devote so much attention to his "Brotberuf" ("day job", literally "bread job"). He also suffered conflict over being Jewish, feeling that it had little to do with him, although critics argue that it influenced his writing. In der Strafkolonie (In the Penal Colony) is a short story by Franz Kafka written in German in October 1914, revised in November 1918, and first published in October 1919.
Philip Glass - Composer
Philip Glass was born on January 31st, 1937 in Baltimore, Maryland. That was there where he began collecting records, including modern music and western classical music, from his father's record store. At the age of 15, Glass was accepted into an accelerated college program at the University of Chicago to study Mathematics and Philsophy. It was then that Glass discovered surealism in Chicago. Later, he attended the Julliard School of Music where he studied keyboard and composition. Now a composer of operas and symphonies he has collaborated with artists Twyla Tharp, Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen and David Bowie, among others. Along with his popular operas Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, Akhnaten, and The Voyage he has also composed for theater and motion pictures, those scores include The Hours, Kindun, and Koyaanisqatsi. Glass has said that his music has "immersed a listener in a sort of sonic weather that twists, turns, surrounds, develops". Considered one of the most influential music makers of the late 20th century, Glass has composed more than 25 operas, 8 symphonies, and two piano concertos.
Long Beach Opera presented the U.S. Premiere of The Perfect American in 2017, Hydrogen Jukebox in 2015, The Fall of the House of Usher in 2013, Aknathen in 2011, and The Sound of a Voice in 2006.
A high-ranking visitor arrives in the penal colony. He was invited there to witness the public execution of a prisoner by a strange machine invented by the former commandant of the colony. The machine slowly carves a description of the condemned man's crimes into his flesh and after hours of excruciating torture, kills him. The device is operated by the officer in charge of the prison who is utterly devoted to the machine and to the memory of the deceased commandant who invented it. The officer is disturbed by the machine's state of disrepair and the growing criticism of its use, including criticism from the island's current commandant. He hopes that the visitor will be impressed by the machine and will speak in favor of its "redemptive powers" to the commandant. When the officer realizes that the visitor will not actively support him, he frees the condemned prisoner from the machine and climbs onto it himself, seeking the redemption of a slow and painful death. The machine, however, goes haywire and instead of killing him slowly, kills him almost instantly by piercing his skull. It then self-destructs. The visitor boards a boat and leaves the island.
Doug Jones, tenor, is a frequent collaborator with LBO, having appeared in Semele, The Breasts of Tiresias, The Clever One, The Kaiser from Atlantis, MacBeth, and The Invention of Morel. He has performed extensively in Europe, including Covent Garden, Opera National de Paris, Salzburg Festival, Grand Theatre of Geneva, Netherlands Opera and the Bregenz Festival. Recent appearances include the Dancing Master in Ariadne auf Naxos with Austin Opera, the Witch in Hansel and Gretel with the Bar Harbor Music Festival, and featured cameo roles in the musicals The Addams Family (Pugsly) and Urinetown (McQueen) in Kansas City.
Zeffin Quinn Hollis
Zeffin Quinn Hollis has been heard as a principal artist with Dallas Opera, New York City Opera, Long Beach Opera, Chicago Opera Theatre, New Orleans Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theatre of Pittsburg, Opera Delaware, Toledo Opera, Hungary’s Szeged & Pécs National Theaters, and the Lviv National Theatre (Ukraine). His signature operatic roles include Scarpia (Tosca), Escamillo (Carmen), and Jack Rance (La Fanciulla del West). Mr. Hollis is equally identifiable in the top echelon of new music. He has worked on premiers from composers Jake Heggie, Tobias Picker, Tarik O’Regan; and at NYC Opera’s famed VOX festival of new works.
Since 2003, Mitisek has been LBO's Artistic & General Director. Recent LBO directing credits: The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, King Gesar, Macbeth, Tell-Tale Heart, Van Gogh, The Paper Nautilus, Ainadamar, and Maria de Buenos Aires. Recent LBO conducting credits:Thérèse Raquin, I was Looking at the Ceiling and then I Saw the Sky, The Death of Klinghoffer, Camelia la Tejana, and The Fall of the House of Usher (co-production with COT). Other conducting credits: Joruri in Tokyo, Don Giovanni (Seattle Opera), Madama Butterfly (Orlando Opera), Jane Eyre (Opera Theatre of Saint Louis) and Eugene Onegin (Teatro Municipal in Santiago de Chile). Mitisek has also conducted the Austrian and Italian premieres of Nixon in China. From 2012-2017 Andreas served Chicago Opera Theater as Artistic & General Director.
Jeff Janisheski is Chair and Professor of Theatre Arts at California State University, Long Beach and is Artistic Director of Cal Rep. For Cal Rep he has directed Paula Cizmar’s Antigone X; and In the Penal Colony is his debut show with LBO. From 2012-2015 he was Head of Acting at Australia’s leading drama school, the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA). From 2008-2011 he was Artistic Director of the National Theater Institute at the Tony Award-winning Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Connecticut. From 2004-2008 he was Associate Artistic Director at New York’s Classic Stage Company. www.jeffjanisheski.com
This activity is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov
Supported in part by a grant from the Arts Council for Long Beach and the City of Long Beach.
Long Beach Opera events are supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission