RG: What made the Sydney Chamber Opera decide on producing this opera?
LG: Sydney Chamber Opera decided to produce In the Penal Colony for a number of reasons. Firstly, it's Glass's 75th birthday this year and we wanted to make sure at least one company in Sydney celebrated this milestone. Many companies around the world are performing his works in concert, staging his operas, and screening films for which he wrote the music, and we wanted to be a part of this world-wide celebration of one of the icons of twentieth and early twenty-first century music.
Secondly, the scenario of the opera is irresistible. It is an adaptation of Franz Kafka's short story of the same name, a story in which a visitor is invited to witness an execution in an unnamed penal colony. The execution is to be performed by a sinister machine but things go awry. The visitor doesn't do anything and we ask ourselves, is it OK that he did nothing? Should he have intervened and stopped things from going awry? This is a question that is very relevant today.
Consider the principle in a bigger perspective, like international politics, for example. There has been so much discourse in recent years on the responsibility to protect. Should the international community intervene when a state's internal situation becomes so dire that state's population is at risk? Or is non-intervention the best policy? The Kafka story is such a relevant one and when combined with the Philip Glass element, as I said, it was an irresistible choice for Sydney Chamber Opera.
PG: Have you had any experience with the operas of Philip Glass before?
LG: Sydney Chamber Opera has not had experience with Philip Glass's operas before. In fact, no Philip Glass operas have ever been staged in Sydney, so in a sense, Sydney hasn't had any experience with the operas of Philip Glass. (obviously audiences may have seen them elsewhere). SCO's production of In the Penal Colony is the first time any of his operas have been seen here. We are very proud that we are responsible for this milestone.
Performances run through this weekend. Check out: http://sydneychamberopera.com