Opera - In the Penal Colony

Hebbeltheater, Berlin
a production of the Berliner Kammeroper
theatre-season: 2002 / 2003
opening night: 22.11.2002
after a short story "In der Strafkolonie"
by Franz Kafka
music: Philip Glass
musical director: Peter Aderhold
director: Kay Kuntze
set- and costume-design: Tina Kitzing
dramaturgy: Asja Jazina

The story "In the Penal Colony" (1914) is based on a short story by Franz Kafka and deals with cultural change: a medieval, barbaric legal system and social order has to be transformed into a modern, civilised social order. This process is instigated by a new ruler, called the new Commander. By means of this change two competing patterns of order are being discussed, based on two different legal systems.

This chamber opera consists of 16 scenes, prologue and epilogue for two singers and originally two silent actors. It is orchestrated for a classical string quartet plus contrabass only. The piece begins innocently with contrabass, cello and viola playing a simple phrase and then connecting up to the first and second violin. The rhythmical modular system is slightly modified with each new scene. The old is being changed a little, something new is being added, with the effect that each new scene has its own musical atmosphere, but the overall tone of the opera remains predominant. (Asja Jarzina)

The island appears like an abstract piece of furniture in the shape of a step-pyramid, which can revolve around its centre. It can be changed into different rooms, e.g. the waiting room, the office, the laboratory, by an in-built folding mechanism. The complex construction of the island stands for the torture machine itself, which pushes the prisoners up into an abstract heaven. (Tina Kitzing)