Music: Philip Glass Libretto: Rudolph Wurlitzer based on original story by Franz Kafka


UK Premiere: Wednesday 15 September 2010 – Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House


Visitor Michael Bennett

Officer Omar Ebrahim

Condemned Man Gerald Tyler


Michael Rafferty Conductor

Michael McCarthy Director

Simon Banham Designer

Ace McCarron Lighting Designer

Sound Intermedia Sound Designers


“A string quintet, two singers, one actor plus a wooden table to suggest an apparatus for torture: you can shape an opera out of anything. These were the sparse elements, tightly brought together, in Philip Glass's one-act In the Penal Colony. Music Theatre Wales, the indispensable, pint-size company which specialises in contemporary chamber opera, gave the UK premiere at the Royal Opera's Linbury studio before a nine-venue UK tour…. In 80 minutes of growing tension, to a sensuous, lyrical score which relates closely to Glass's string quartet repertoire, the complexities unfold. The atmosphere is airless and forensic. There are many ambiguities and no simple explanation…. Simply staged by Michael McCarthy, lit by Ace McCarron and conducted by Michael Rafferty, the performance was focused and taut. …The Music Theatre Wales Ensemble shone in this challenging, finger-exhausting, concentration-sapping score. Catch it on tour.”

The Observer on In the Penal Colony September 2010

“Philip Glass’s 10-year-old chamber opera, which received its UK premiere on Wednesday in a production by Music Theatre Wales, starts off with one clear advantage. It compels our assent to its basic (and only) premise – that abuse of human rights ultimately scars its perpetrators as much as its victims and no bystander can escape moral responsibility. By appealing so blatantly to the western liberal conscience, In the Penal Colony cannot fail. It is short (80 minutes without interval) and economical – just two singers, one silent actor and five instrumentalists. Michael McCarthy’s staging made perfect sense with only a table, chair and ladder. Music Theatre Wales tackled it with characteristic verve.”

Financial Times

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All Production Photography Clive Barda unless otherwise stated | All copyright Music Theatre Wales. Company Registration Number: 02815692 VAT Number: 615 5203 70 Registered Charity Number: 1039757

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